The Rabbit Hunter

A Novel

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 14, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER * ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN CRIME NOVELS OF THE YEAR * Another shocking thriller in the Killer Instinct series: It’s up to Detectives Joona Linna and Saga Bauer to untangle one of the most complex cases of their career, and follow a killer’s trail of destruction back to one horrific night of violence.

It begins with a nursery rhyme. Nineteen minutes later you die.

Ten little rabbits, all dressed in white

Tried to get to heaven on the end of a kite.
Kite string got broken, down they all fell,
Instead of going to heaven, they all went to…

A masked stranger stands in the shadows. He watches his victim through the window. He will kill him slowly–make him pay.

Soon the Rabbit Hunter has claimed another three victims. This predator will stop at nothing to reap his ultimate revenge.


It's early morning, and the still water of the inlet is shimmering like brushed steel. The luxurious villas are asleep, but outdoor lights glint behind tall fences and hedges.

A drunken man is walking along the road by the shore, a bottle of wine in his hand. He stops in front of a white house with an elongated façade that faces the water. Very carefully, he puts the bottle down in the middle of the road, steps across the ditch, and climbs the black metal railing.

The man meanders across the lawn, then stops and sways as he stares at the big windows. He sees the reflections of the patio lights and the indistinct outline of the furniture inside.

He heads toward the house, waving at a large porcelain garden gnome, and then stumbles out onto the wooden deck. He drops to one knee, but keeps his balance.

The water of the pool shines like a blue sheet of glass.

The man stands unsteadily on the edge, unzips his pants, and starts to urinate into the pool, then weaves his way over to the navy-blue garden furniture and proceeds to soak the cushions, chairs, and table.

Steam rises from his urine in the chilly air.

He zips up his pants and watches a white rabbit as it hops across the lawn and disappears under a bush.

Smiling, he walks back toward the house, leaning against the fence. He makes his way down to the lawn, then stops and turns around.

His befuddled brain tries to make sense of what he just saw.

A black-clad figure with a strange face was staring at him.

Either the person was standing inside the dark house, or was outside, watching him in the reflection.


Late August

Drizzle is falling from the dark sky. There's no wind, and the illuminated drops form a misty dome that covers Djursholm. The city lights glow high above the rooftops.

Beside the still waters of Germania Bay lies a sprawling villa.

Inside, a young woman walks across the polished floor and Persian carpet as warily as an animal.

Her name is Sofia Stefansson.

Her anxiety makes her register tiny details about the room.

There's a black remote control on the arm of the sofa, its battery cover taped in place. There are water rings on the table. An old Band-Aid is stuck to the long fringe of the carpet.

The floor creaks, as if someone was creeping through the rooms behind Sofia.

There are splashes of mud from the wet stone path on her high heels and toned calves. Her legs are still muscular, even though she stopped playing soccer two years ago.

Sofia keeps the pepper spray in her hand hidden from the man waiting for her. She keeps telling herself that she's in control and she wants to be here.

The man is standing by an armchair, watching her move with unabashed frankness.

Sofia's features are symmetrical, and she has a youthful plumpness in her cheeks. She is wearing a blue dress that shows off her bare shoulders. A row of small, fabric-covered buttons stretches from her neck down between her breasts. The little gold heart on her necklace bobs up and down at the base of her throat in time with her increased heart rate.

She could say that she's not feeling well, that she needs to go home. It would probably annoy him, but he'd accept it.

The man is looking at her with a hunger that makes her stomach flutter in fear.

She is seized by the feeling that she has met him before—could he have been a senior manager somewhere she worked, the father of a classmate a long time ago?

Sofia stops a short distance away from him, smiles, and feels the rapid beat of her heart. She's planning to keep her distance until she's figured him out or the meaning behind his tone and gestures.

His hands don't look like they belong to a violent man: his nails are neatly trimmed, and his plain wedding ring is scratched from years of marriage.

"Nice house," she says, tucking a stray lock of hair away from her face.

"Thanks," he replies.

He can't be much more than fifty, but he still moves ponderously, like an old man.

"You took a taxi here?" he asks, swallowing hard.

"Yes," she replies.

They fall silent again. The clock in the next room strikes twice with a brittle clang.

Some saffron-colored pollen falls from a lily in a vase.

Sofia realized at an early age that she found sexually charged situations exciting. She enjoyed being appreciated, the sense of being chosen.

"Have we met before?" she asks.

"I wouldn't have forgotten something like that," he replies.

The man's gray-blond hair is thin, combed back over his head. His slack face is shiny, and his brow is deeply furrowed.

"Do you collect art?" she asks, nodding toward the wall.

"I'm interested in art," he says.

His pale eyes look at her through horn-rimmed glasses. She turns away and slides the pepper spray into her bag, then walks over to a large painting in a gilded frame.

He follows her and stands slightly too close, breathing through his nose. Sofia startles when he raises his right hand to point.

"Nineteenth century…Carl Gustaf Hellqvist," he lectures. "He died young. He had a troubled life, full of pain. He got electroshock therapy, but he was a wonderful artist."

"Fascinating," she replies quietly.

"I think so," the man says, then walks toward the dining room.

Sofia follows him slowly, feeling she is being lured into a trap. It's as if the way out were closing behind her sluggishly, cutting off her escape route little by little.

The huge room is furnished with upholstered chairs and polished cabinets. There are rows of leaded windows looking out across the water.

She sees two glasses of red wine on the edge of the dining-room table.

"Can I offer you a glass of wine?" he asks, turning back toward her.

"I'd prefer white, if you have any," she replies, worried that he might try to drug her.

"Champagne?" he says, without taking his eyes off her.

"That would be lovely," she replies.

"Then we shall have champagne," he declares.

When you visit the home of a complete stranger, every room could be a trap, every object a weapon.

Sofia prefers hotels, because at least there's a chance that someone would hear her if she had to call for help.

She's following him toward the kitchen when she hears a peculiar, high-pitched sound. She can't figure out where it's coming from. The man doesn't seem to have noticed it, but she stops and turns to look at the dark windows. She's about to say something when there's another very distinct sound, like an ice cube cracking in a glass.

"Are you sure there's no one else here?" she asks.

She could slip her shoes off and run toward the front door if anything happened. She's more agile than he is, and if she ran she'd be able to get out.

She stands in the kitchen doorway as he takes a bottle of Bollinger from a wine fridge. He opens it and fills two slender glasses before walking over to her.


Sofia sips the champagne. She lets the taste spread through her mouth, hears the bubbles burst in the glass. Something makes her look over toward the windows again. A deer, maybe, she thinks. It's dark outside. In the reflection she can see the sharp outline of the kitchen and the man's back.

The man raises his glass again and drinks. His hand is shaking ever so slightly as he gestures toward her.

"Unbutton your dress a little," he says weakly.

Sofia empties her glass, sees the mark of her lipstick on the rim, and puts it down on the table before gently teasing the top button open.

"You're wearing a bra," he says.

"Yes," she replies, and undoes the second button.

"What size?"

"Seventy C."

The man stays where he is and watches her with a smile, and Sofia feels her armpits prickle as she starts to sweat.

"What panties are you wearing?"

"Pale blue, silk."

"Can I see?"

She hesitates, and he notices.

"Sorry," he says quickly. "Am I being too forward? Is that it?"

"We should probably handle payment first," she says, trying to sound simultaneously firm and casual.

"I understand," he says tersely.

"It's best to get it out of the—"

"You'll get your money," he interrupts, with a hint of irritation in his voice.

When she sees her regulars, things are usually very straightforward—pleasant, even—but new clients always make her nervous. She worries about things she's experienced in the past, like the father of two in Täby who bit her on the neck and locked her in his garage.

She advertises on Pink Pages and Stockholmgirls. Almost all the people who contact her are a waste of time. Crude language, promises of wonderful sex, or threats of violence and punishment.

She always trusts her gut instinct when she starts to correspond with someone new. This particular message was well written. It was fairly direct, but not disrespectful. He said his name was Wille, his phone number was blocked, and he lived in a nice area.

In his third e-mail he explained what he wanted to do to her, and how much he was willing to pay.

She took that as a warning.

If it sounds too good to be true, then there's something wrong. Nothing comes for free in this world, and it's better to miss out on a generous deal than put yourself in danger.

Still, she's here now.

The man returns and hands her an envelope. She counts the money quickly and puts it in her bag.

"Is that enough for you to show me your underwear?" he says.

She smiles warmly, gently takes hold of both sides of her dress, and slowly lifts it above her knees. The hem rubs against her nylon stockings. She pauses and looks at him.

He doesn't meet her gaze, just stares down between her legs as she gradually raises the dress to her waist. Her silk underwear shimmers like mother-of-pearl beneath her pale pantyhose.

"Are you shaved?" he asks in a slightly hoarser voice.



"Yes," she replies.

"That must hurt," he says, sounding genuinely interested.

"You get used to it," she says with a nod.

"Like a lot of things in life," he whispers.

She lets her dress drop again and takes the opportunity to wipe the sweat from her palms as she smooths the fabric over her thighs.

Even though she has the money, she's starting to feel nervous again.

Possibly because he paid so much, five times more than any previous client.

In one of his e-mails he explained that he was prepared to pay extra for her discretion, and for his specific wishes, but this is way above her normal rate.

She didn't think what he wanted sounded that bad.

She remembers one man with worried eyes who dressed up in his mother's underwear and wanted her to kick him in the crotch. He paid for her to pee on him as he lay on the floor crying in pain, but she couldn't do it. She just grabbed the money and ran.

"People get turned on by all sorts of things," Wille says with an embarrassed smile. "Obviously, you can't force anyone….I mean, you have to pay for some things. I'm not expecting you to actually enjoy what you do."

"It depends, but I do sometimes enjoy it if the man's gentle," she lies.

Naturally, Sofia promises full discretion in her ad, but she still has one safety measure as a precaution. She keeps a diary at home, where she makes a note of the names and addresses of people she's arranged to meet, so that someone will be able to find her if she ever goes missing.

Besides, Tamara saw Wille once, just before she stopped working as an escort, got married, and moved to Gothenburg. Tamara would have posted a warning on the sex workers' forum if he'd behaved inappropriately.

"As long as you don't find me repulsive," the man says, taking a step closer to her. "I mean, you're so beautiful, and I'm…Well, I know what I look like. I was okay when I was your age, but…"

"You look good now," she assures him.

Sofia thinks of all the times she's heard people say that escorts have to be like psychologists, but most of the men she sees never say anything personal.

"Shall we go up to the bedroom?" Wille asks lightly.


Sofia follows him up the broad wooden staircase. The soft carpet is held in place on each step by a thin brass rod. The light from the large chandelier reflects off the varnished banister. She needs to pee badly.

Sofia's initial plan had been to concentrate on exclusive clients, the ones who were prepared to pay more for an entire night, ones who wanted company at a party or on a trip.

In the three years she's been working as an escort, she's had maybe a couple of dozen jobs like that, but most of her clients just want a blow job after work before they go home to their families.

The master bedroom is well lit, dominated by an imposing double bed with beautiful gray silk sheets.

On the wife's side there's a Lena Andersson novel and a jar of fancy hand cream, and on Wille's side there's an iPad with finger marks on the dark glass.

He shows her the black leather straps he's already tied around the bedposts. She notes that they're not new: the creases are slightly cracked and the color has begun to flake off.

The room suddenly shudders and spins around a couple of times. She looks at Wille, but he seems unconcerned.

He has white marks at the corners of his mouth, from toothpaste.

The staircase creaks, and he glances toward the hallway before looking back at her.

"I have to be able to trust you to release me when I say so," he says as he unbuttons his shirt. "I have to be sure that you won't try to rob me or just run away now that you have your money."

"Of course," she replies.

His chest is covered with fair hair, and he's making an effort to suck in his stomach while she looks at him.

Sofia decides that she'll ask to go to the bathroom once he's tied up. There's an en-suite. The door is open and she can see the shower and a patch of gold mosaic wall in the mirror.

"I want you to tie me up, and take your time with it—I don't like it rough," he says.

Sofia nods and takes her shoes off. She feels dizzy again as she straightens up. She looks him in the eye before lifting her dress up to her navel. It crackles with static. She slips her thumbs beneath the top of her pantyhose and starts to pull them down. The feeling of constriction eases as the thin fabric puddles around her calves.

"Perhaps you'd rather be tied up instead?" he asks, smiling at his suggestion.

"No, thanks," she replies as she starts to unbutton her dress.

"It's actually pretty comfortable," he jokes, tugging gently at one of the straps.

"I don't do that sort of thing," she explains breezily.

"I've never tried it the other way around….I'd be prepared to double your fee if you did it," he says with a laugh, as if the thought surprises and delights him.

What he's now offering is more money than she earns in two months, but having to lie there tied up is much too dangerous.

"What do you say?" He smiles.

"No," she replies.

"Okay," he says quickly, and lets go of the strap.

The buckle makes a tinkling sound as it hits the bedpost.

"Do you want me to take all of my clothes off?"

"Wait awhile," he replies, giving her an oddly searching look.

"Is it okay if I use the bathroom?"

"Soon," he says. He sounds like he's trying to control his breathing.

Sofia's lips feel strangely cool. When she raises one hand to her mouth she sees his face break into a wide smile.

He walks over to her, takes hold of her chin tightly, and then spits straight in her face.

"What are you doing?" she asks, as a rush of dizziness sweeps through her.

Her legs suddenly give out, and she lands so heavily on the floor that she bites her tongue. She sinks onto her side as her mouth fills with blood, and she sees him standing over her, unbuttoning his corduroy pants.

Sofia doesn't have the strength to crawl away. She rests her cheek on the floor and sees a dead fly in the dust under the bed. Her heart is beating so hard that she can hear it thudding in her ears. She realizes that she must have been drugged.

Before Sofia loses consciousness, it occurs to her that he might be about to murder her, and that this might be the last thing she ever experiences.

"Don't. Don't do it," she gasps, before closing her eyes.


Sofia wakes up coughing, and suddenly remembers where she is. She's tied to Wille's bed. She's on her back, held in place by leather straps. He's tied her so tightly that the muscles in her legs and arms are straining. Her wrists are burning and her fingers are numb.

Her mouth is bone-dry, and her tongue feels swollen and sore.

Her thighs have been spread, pushing her dress up around her waist.

This can't be happening, she thinks.

He must have drugged one of the champagne glasses while it was still in the cabinet.

Sofia hears a businesslike conversation from the next room. Someone used to being in charge is talking.

She tries to lift her head up to look out the window, to see if it's night or morning, but she can't. It hurts her arms too much.

It has just occurred to her that she has no idea how long she's been lying there when he comes into the room.

Fear fills Sofia's heart. She feels her throat constrict and her pulse starts to race.

What definitely must not happen has happened.

She tries to calm herself, thinking that she needs to get a conversation going. She has to make him realize that he's picked the wrong girl, but that she won't say anything if he lets her go.

Sofia promises herself that she's going to quit being an escort. She's been doing it for too long, and she wastes the money on things she doesn't need.

The man is looking at her with the same hunger as before. She tries to adopt a relaxed expression. She knew right from the start there was something wrong here. But instead of turning around and walking away, she ignored her gut. She's made a catastrophic mistake.

"I said no to this," she says in a composed voice.

"Yes," he replies with a slow smile, letting his eyes roam all over her body.

"I know girls who think this is okay. I can put you in touch with them if you'd like."

He doesn't answer, just breathes heavily through his nose and steps to the end of the bed, between her legs. She feels sweat break out all over her body, and tries to prepare herself for what's to come.

"This is assault. You do realize that, don't you?"

He doesn't respond, just pushes his glasses up his nose and looks at her with great interest.

"This is making me feel very uncomfortable and violated," Sofia begins to say, but stops when her voice starts to tremble.

She forces herself to breathe more slowly, to try not to seem scared, not to beg. What would Tamara have done? She can see her friend's freckled face in front of her, with that slightly mocking smile, the hardness in her eyes.

"I've got your information written down in a book in my apartment," she says, looking him in the eye.

"What details?" he asks casually.

"Your name, which is presumably made up, but the address here, your e-mail, the time of our meeting…"

"Thanks for letting me know," he says, nodding.

The mattress rocks as he starts to crawl up the bed toward her. He stops between her thighs, swaying, then grabs her underwear and pulls hard. The seams don't break, and her shoulder aches as if it's been dislocated.

The man tugs again, with both hands. It stings as the underwear cuts into her hips, but the reinforced seams won't tear.

He whispers something to himself, then leaves her on the bed.

The mattress sways again, and Sofia can feel her thighs starting to cramp.

She has a fleeting memory of soccer practice, the way she could tell when a cramp was on its way, the tightening of her calves as she tried to pick out lumps of mud from her cleats.

Her friends' hot red faces. The noisy locker room, the smell of sweat, liniment, and deodorant.

How has it come to this? How did she end up here?

Sofia tries not to cry. She feels she'll be finished if she shows fear.

The man returns with a small pair of scissors and cuts through her underwear on both sides, then pulls them off.

"There are plenty of people willing to do bondage," Sofia says. "I know—"

"I don't want girls who are willing to do it," he interrupts, tossing her underwear onto the bed beside her.

"I mean, there are girls who get turned on by being tied up," she says.

"You shouldn't have come here," he declares bluntly.

Sofia can't hold her tears back any longer and starts to cry. She arches her back and tugs at the straps so hard that her skin tears and blood starts to trickle down the bottom of her right arm.

"Don't do it," she sobs.

The man pulls off his shirt, throws it on the floor, pushes his pants down, and rolls a condom onto his half-erect penis.

He kneels down on the bed, and she can smell the rubber on his fingers as he pushes her shredded underwear into her mouth. She starts to retch and comes close to throwing up. Her tongue is completely dry, and tears are streaming down her cheeks. The man squeezes one of her breasts through the dress, then lies down heavily on top of her.

Sofia wets herself with fear, and a hot pool of urine spreads out beneath her.

When he tries to push into her, she twists to the side quickly and shoves him with her hip.

A drop of sweat falls from his nose onto her forehead.

He grabs her throat with one hand, looks at her, tightens his grip, and lies on top of her again. His weight makes her sink into the mattress, which pulls her thighs farther apart. Her ankles sting as the bedposts creak.

She struggles to breathe, tossing her head until she manages to get some air into her lungs.

He tightens his grip on her throat, and her vision starts to flicker. The room fades away as she feels him trying to force his way inside her. Sofia struggles to twist aside, but it's impossible; this is going to happen anyway. She can't stay inside her body, she has to think about something else. Flashes of memory dart past: cool evenings on the big soccer field, ragged breathing, clouds in front of her mouth, the silence down by the lake, the old school in Bollstanäs.

The coach points at the ball and blows the whistle; then silence.

The grip on her throat disappears. Sofia spits out her underwear and gasps for air as she blinks.

Someone's ringing the doorbell downstairs.

He grabs her chin and forces the underwear back in, and she starts to retch again, breathing through her nose, unable to swallow.

The doorbell rings again.

The man spits on her and gets off the bed. He pulls his pants up and grabs his shirt before leaving the room.

As soon as he's gone, Sofia pulls her right hand as hard as she can, without thinking of the consequences.

She feels excruciating pain, but her hand comes out of the strap.

Only the underwear in her mouth stops her from screaming out loud.

On Sale
Jan 14, 2020
Page Count
528 pages