Book Review: THE FIRE WITNESS by Lars Kepler

The Fire Witness is the third installment in the Joona Linna series by critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, writing as “Lars Kepler”. Their Joona Linna series has sold more than twelve million copies in forty languages! Re-edited and reissued by a new North American publisher, with a brand new translation from the original Swedish by Neil Smith, The Fire Witness demonstrates the authors’ mastery of layered, complex plotting, replete with numerous scenes of gripping, high suspense!

The earliest chapters of The Fire Witness set a mood of disquiet and unease that pull the reader into the story right away! Ever since the Blancheford Holding Company purchased the Birgitta Home, the private holding company has been steadily reducing the supervising, night staff. Now murder has occurred at this group home for troubled, adolescent girls that is an isolated, 377 kilometers from Stockholm, deep in the dark forest, and Finnish-Swedish detective Joona Linna investigates. In his almost 15 years of service, Joona Linna has solved more complex cases than any other detective within the National Crime Unit, which is a good thing, because this particular case turns out to be not nearly as cut and dry as the initial evidence would suggest.

Based upon the two novels in the series that I have now read, these are not the oft marketed “thrillers” that drive along at a very moderate speed, and then accelerate once, as fun as that may be, for the last fifteen percent of the book. These authors really know how to write the hills and valleys of suspense that meet the Mystery in Minutes definition of a thriller! Fans of (non-gory) horror films may well enjoy the often cinematic, Lars Kepler style of writing, which, among other techniques, sometimes employs “jump scares”, such as a door suddenly slamming shut behind a character after a significant amount of breath-holding tension has been created.

At over 500 pages, The Fire Witness is not a quick read, but it certainly held my attention throughout, and the book’s short chapters, often ending on “mini cliff-hangers”, drove me to keep reading “just one more chapter”. If you enjoy a mysterious puzzle with many layers of clues that keep the reader on their toes until the very end, the plot and style of The Fire Witness will provide many hours of entertainment to both female, as well as male, readers of Scandinavian crime fiction!

The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler book cover image.jpg

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy “meatier” Scandi Crime And Nordic Noir - lengthier books, a la The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, that a reader can sink their teeth into, and that will provide many hours of entertainment.

  • Who appreciate crime fiction with relatively short chapters that compel the reader to keep turning the pages.

  • Who appreciate atmospheric crime and mystery novels, with a great sense of place.

  • Who are not highly sensitive to darker crime fiction with non-gratuitous, yet fairly brutal violence.

  • Who don't mind a fair amount of sexual content and language in their crime fiction.

  • Who enjoy police procedurals, including reading about the collection of forensic evidence.

  • Who love crime fiction with gripping, heart-in-the-throat suspense and action.

    Pages: 560 (Paperback)


The third installment of the #1 internationally bestselling Joona Linna series, The Fire Witness sees Joona drawn into a gruesome, mysterious murder at a home for wayward girls. 

Detective Joona Linna is on leave dealing with personal and professional issues when he gets pulled into the investigation of a horrific murder at a home for wayward teenage girls. One girl is dead, and another is missing. The local police want to close the case quickly, especially after they discover a bloody hammer under the missing girl's bed. But a woman claiming to see visions of the murdered girl insists there is more going on than meets the eye, and Joona is inclined to believe her. As he digs deeper into the case, he finds himself in dark and dangerous territory. This compelling thriller will have you turning pages long into the night.


You can read my review of The Sandman, the next installment in the series, featuring the Ahndoril’s female protagonist, Saga Bauer, who is a Security Police detective, here!

MINM Overall Rating of The Fire Witness: 4.5/5 Stars