The idea of this book is great: a man who is about to have his 100th birthday party escapes from his retirement home and embarks on a series of hilarious and dangerous adventures.  And, for the most part, it is funny.  But, it is also told in two time periods…the present day (where the man is 100) and the past (where the man in younger but still having adventures).  I LOVED the present day parts.  They are well-written and VERY funny…sardonic, sarcastic, and very, very dark in its humor.  But, the flashbacks to the past are…part funny, part endearing, and part history lesson.  After a while, all of the histrionics of the flashbacks begins to take its toll.  I wanted more (all) of the present day story.

The flashbacks play out more like Being There (the film and originally the Jerzy Kosinski book) and Forrest Gump…where the man, Allan and his life and works alter segments of history, such as Los Alamos, actual events in China, North Korea, etc., where he seemed to have no trouble affecting international politics just by being himself.  Aside from being in the “thick” of things politically (President Truman was a good friend), Allan was also high adventurous and enterprising as a young man (he walked back to his homeland of Sweden over the Himalayas after his involvement in the Far East was over.  So, the flashbacks part was a overly unbelievable and less funny than the antics of the 100-year-old Allan and his group of misfits.  These misfits include a thief who befriends Allan shortly after his “escape” from the retirement home, a hot dog cart owner (who also has a car that comes in handy), a home owner who just happens to own the house Allan and his crew stumble upon (the home owner is also the owner of a stolen/found elephant), and eventually a crime lord.  If you want a funny, lively and truly entertaining read, try this one.  Skim the flashbacks (they are funny in parts…just too long) but savor the present-day adventures of a 100-year-old man. 
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Following the overwhelming success of The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl….series) by Stieg Larsson and the recent success of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, it’s no wonder American publishers are clamoring to get new Scandinavian authors out on the crime fiction shelves.  Sometimes, this leads to less than stellar works…published just for the sake of being published.  That is NOT the case with this book by Kepler, a Swedish husband and wife writing team.  The Hypnotist is one of the strongest thrillers I’ve read in ages…since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…and even gives that first book of Larsson’s trilogy a run for its money.  Most of the way through (up until the very end — maybe the last 50 pages) was some of the best suspense ever!  Kepler knows just how to reel the audience in and how much or how little to give away…letting the chills mount until they just HAVE to be released.  The ending was a bit of a disappointment, which is why it was not able to surpass The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as my favorite crime story in a decade.  Unlike Girl, which has a very strong ending, The Hypnotist’s story and writing seems to drag on unnecessarily at the end, which is a shame since most of the book was so taut and fine-tuned.  But, the ending should not keep you from reading this one.  The first 450 pages are superb and need to be savored and remembered as you read to the end.  I’m sure you will not be disappointed with this one!  A MUST for all crime readers!

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This is the one everyone is talking about. I usually stay away from uber-popular titles like the plague, but this was too popular to pass up. And, I believe, it deserves most, if not all, of the hype. But, be warned, it starts slow and ends kind of slow but in-between are some of the most compelling, can’t-put-it-down-in-the-middle-of-the-night fair. Like I said, at the start, I was pretty bored. But, once it kicks in (when you find out the essence of the “thriller” part of the story), I was hooked. The “thriller” part (which takes up most of the book, so don’t worry) involves a disgraced journalist who is asked by the head of a influential Swedish family to write his memoirs and also, in the process, find out what happened to his niece who went missing over 40 years ago. Be warned…this one is pretty dang gory and graphic in parts. Author Stieg Larsson doesn’t hold anything back when he describes a crime scene. And, I like that…it’s honest. Deliberate when it needs to be and riveting always, Larsson (who passed away after he submitted the final book in this trilogy to his publisher) deserves all of the credit he’s getting. Too bad he’s not here to enjoy it!

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After 19 people are brutally murdered in a little small-town hamlet in Sweden , a judge who finds out she’s distantly related to one of the victims begins her own investigation. Brigitta, the judge, soon finds out that all of the victims might have had an ancestral connection that was the factor in their murder. The story, which goes from present day Sweden and China to American in the 1800s, is as nail-biting as they come. Mankell, known worldwide mostly for his Wallander mystery series, does a superb job of trying his hand at a standalone thriller.

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Created by author Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander is not your typical police detective. He’s dirty, he smells, he’s a bad family man, he’s practically suicidal at times…and he looks awful all the time. But, he is good at what he does…it is by far what he does best…solve crimes. The crimes nag at him, infest his person, enter his soul and will not leave until they are solved. To say he takes things personally is a true understatement. Sure, Frost and Morse are both grumpy, unkempt at times and lacking in social skills, but compared to Wallander, Morse/Frost would be your favorite cuddly grandpa. And, these BBC/PBS productions are so skillfully done, they really get into the mind of Wallander. We can almost feel his pain and his angst. We are right along with this daughter as she pleads with him to eat and sleep. Branagh is perfectly cast as Wallander…he is not afraid, here, to let anything show…he is completely exposed. Most actors wouldn’t be able to do this…even if they could. The stories are your average crime fare. What makes the series as great as it is is the character Wallander and Branagh’s portrayal.

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A Norwegian and Swedish film about scientists in Sweden during the 1950s who come up with the brilliant idea (yes, that is sarcasm) to study the behavior of people in their kitchens. For the study, they have selected men who live alone…widowers, bachelors, etc. The “researchers” had special chairs to sit in to study their “subjects” kitchen habits and were not supposed to talk to their subjects under any circumstances. OK – from this you probably think this is not the movie for you. Well, it’s a slow film, I’ll grant you that, but once I got into it, which really didn’t take that long, I loved it. It’s more of a case study of men during this era – men who live in isolated, extremely rural communities in Norway. This film is about friendship and trust…and about the small things in life. Nothing much really happens here but what is on the screen is heart-warming and humorous. For people who don’t like foreign films or having to read subtitles, this is a foreign movie for you! Why? Well, there is not much dialogue so not many subtitles to read.

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