The Fire Witness Review
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Unabridged Audiobook: 12 CDs (15 hours)
Read by Mark Bramhall

Ever since Stieg Larsson’s gritty best-selling thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, took bookstores by storm, readers have been on the lookout for hot new Scandinavian authors—like Lars Kepler. So if you’re searching for an edgy audiobook to turn your next road trip into a dark and eerie adventure, you might want to consider The Fire Witness.

The story investigates murder at a home for wayward girls. Although Swedish National Police Detective Inspector Joona Linna is the subject of an internal affairs investigation, he’s still the best of the best—so he’s called in to observe the case. When he arrives on the scene, he finds that one of the residents has been brutally murdered, her hands carefully placed over her eyes. In a nearby room, he finds a bloody hammer and blood-soaked sheets, and the room’s resident—a quiet girl named Vicky—has disappeared.

As the investigation gets under way, a girl fitting Vicky’s description steals a car with a toddler in the backseat—and the hunt for the missing girl immediately becomes all the more urgent.

The Fire Witness is often a brutal thriller—one that, at times, might make you want to cover your ears to keep you from hearing some of the gory details. The case itself, however, is a fascinating one—and as Joona’s investigation follows all kinds of twists and turns, you’ll keep wondering how all of the pieces will come together in the end.

At the same time, Kepler (which is actually a pseudonym for a Swedish writing duo) also sprinkles the story with supernatural touches. The girl who steals the car, for instance, may be Vicky—but, from the description of the car’s owner, she could also be some kind of a mysterious forest creature. And a woman named Flora Hansen—who poses as a medium to make some extra cash—enters the investigation after she claims to have seen the ghost of the murdered girl. Unfortunately, though, while these supernatural elements add an eerie twist to the mystery, they don’t really go anywhere. Some parts are shrugged off and explained away, while others are dropped altogether.

Meanwhile, the action and suspense of this dark thriller are balanced out by Mark Bramhall’s subdued narration. His deep voice is calm and rather monotone—and, no matter how exciting the mystery may be, it’s likely to lull you into a kind of trance. And when you come out of it, you’ll realize that you’ve missed parts of the story.

If you haven’t read early books in Kepler’s Joona Linna series, you’ll sometimes find yourself lost in the occasional details of his relationships and the ongoing internal affairs investigation. You’ll also find the last disc or so almost entirely unnecessary—because, once the case is wrapped up, the story delves even deeper into Joona’s past. If you’ve been following the edgy investigator throughout his adventures, however, you’ll be eager to learn more about his past—and to get a few hints about his future.

The Fire Witness is an intriguing and complex thriller. Fans of the series will enjoy this dark and creepy third installment—but newcomers might want to start from the beginning. And, either way, you might want to skip the audio version and stick with the hardcover instead.

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