From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels—a new, electrifying stand-alone thriller set in Oslo in the 1970s: the story of an unusually complicated contract killer—the perfectly sympathetic antihero—that is, as well, an edgy, almost lyrical meditation on death and love.This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented “fixer” whose unexpected capacity for love is as far-reaching as his talent for murder. He works for Oslo’s crime kingpin, “fixing” anyone who causes him trouble. But it’s becoming clear to Olav that the more you know about your boss’s business, the more your boss might want you fixed yourself, especially if you’ve fallen in love with his wife…. – Goodreads
This was my first Jo Nesbø book, an author I’ve been meaning to check out since my friend Katrin (who is an expert in mysteries and thrillers, particularly those of Scandinavian origin) recommended him. I’m actually really glad this book served as my introduction.
It’s not a long book – in fact, it only took a few hours to read. It’s also not your typical thriller. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely…. thrilling. But it’s got a few interesting traits that set it apart.
The first being that it’s written from the perspective of the hit man. Not only that, but we’re allowed a first person view of his thoughts and emotions, making us root for and feel connected to him. He’s the perfect sympathetic bad guy, the villain with a sensitive heart, the hit man with one fatal vulnerability… and his character is intriguing to become acquainted with.
The simplicity of the language Nesbø employs (or perhaps that is chosen by the translator) is another facet of this story that is in keeping with the character. Olav is dyslexic. He is an avid reader, but has trouble placing words in sequence, and finds writing to be particularly challenging. I don’t know what dyslexia feels like, so I could be wrong, but in my imagination the way Nesbø employs language seemed to mirror this vulnerability, at the same time as it served to represent Olav’s personality and lifestyle.
I always find it interesting to read translated works. The way words are placed, the pace and style of the language, and the very marrow of the story seem to represent a culture very different from what I experience when reading books written in my native language. It’s not the same in all translations, but I do find that translated works from certain geographical areas share a common vibe. I’ll be interested to read more – not only of Nesbø’s work, but of other Scandanavian authors – to see if the feeling evoked by Nesbø’s writing style is influenced by his cultural background.
I definitely got more than I expected from this book. For its genre, this book holds a rare beauty, and its characters have stuck with me well past the end of the story. It wasn’t overly scary, so if you’re a marshmallow, you can probably take it. But if you like your murders bloody… well, you won’t be disappointed. This would make a great vacation read, or an excellent book to polish off on a rainy afternoon. I’m officially recommending it!
I particularly loved the end of this book. It’s pretty obvious from the tone and trajectory of this story that it’s not going to have a happy ending. But as I was reading, part of me couldn’t help wishing it would. I wanted Olav to finally tell Maria how he felt about her. I wanted these two broken characters to find solace in one another, and for once not feel so alone in a world that had been all loneliness and hard edges.
When it seemed like this was actually going to happen, I got to enjoy that sense of fulfilled fantasy first-hand, and to realize that it didn’t quite fit – that as much as I had wanted it, I didn’t buy it. The final twist was therefore completely in keeping with the book, and yet because I got to experience, however briefly, my coveted happy ending, it wasn’t as devastating as I had expected. Bravo. (END SPOILER)
You enjoy simple plots with depth of character, and unexpected sweetness hidden under brutal violence. You don’t mind characters who are neither angel nor demon, and if you like realistic endings.
If you enjoyed this book, you might like:
- BOOK SERIES: Department Q novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Another Scandanavian author, and a misanthropic main character. The tone and perspective are different, but the style of writing is similar.
- BOOK SERIES: The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Has a similar gruff vibe and is by another Scandanavian author. I haven’t finished these books, but from the bit I have read, it will likely appeal to Jo Nesbø fans.
- BOOK & MOVIE: The Drop by Dennis Lehane. It has a similar vibe – the loner who is capable of handling himself, but underneath has a surprisingly squishy heart.
- MOVIE: The Professional. Stars Natalie Portman in the early days and a beloved house plant. Oh, also Jean Reno as a quiet yet sympathetic hit man and Gary Oldman proving yet again what an excellent actor he is by making us thoroughly despise him.
Author: Jo Nesbø
Published By: Random House Canada
Released: April 7, 2015
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Translation
Date Read: April 11-12, 2015