GOODREADS SUMMARY | Random House Canada | Hardcover, 208 pp. | April 7th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Thriller | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Jo Nesbø is a household name in the suspense/thriller genre. And since I’ve rarely venture out into that aisle of my bookstore, I’ve yet to discover all the hows and the whys he’s so popular. At 208 pages, this book did its damnest to convince me that he is as prolific in the genre as everyone claims him to be.
I get it. I get his style. I get his characters and the brutal violence that he could very well be known for. This man has written a number of books; including a couple of stand-alones that are critically acclaimed. As an inexperienced reader of noir fiction, I’m hardly an expert. But I hope you’ll give me some leeway when I say that Scandinavian thrillers are a different beast altogether. I think did him a disservice when I tagged this book as pulp fiction during the first few chapters of my reading. Truth is, it really is not.
It’s difficult to develop a rapport with a character whose line of work dealt with the murder of suspect characters. But Olav is what you would consider as an assassin with a heart. Depending on the assignment, the chances of him saving a kill is more than likely to happen. He does his research well; he finds anything worth saving before he goes for the kill. It’s a deterrent to success in his line of work. After all, he can’t save everyone. And while he is a killer with a kind heart, he could be also be as cold as a trained assassin could be.
His latest assignment led him to a whole world of trouble. He was to kill the wife of the man who give his assignments. During his usual surveillance, he found out that she was, indeed, cheating. But the circumstances can’t be as black and white. He sees the man beats her before they have sex. He concludes that he was blackmailing her, hence the forced sex. He didn’t anticipate how badly things will turn out when he decided to kill the man instead of his boss’ wife, however.
For such a short novel, Nesbø was able to give Olav depth in characterization: he’s not a very smart man; he’s naive. He killed his father. He can’t rob a bank, or be a pimp. He doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He compares himself to his version of Hugo’s Jean Valjean. He adores his mother. In one of his assignments, he decided to save a deaf-mute girl who was forced into prostitution to pay off a debt. He’s been writing her an unsent letters ever since.
Amidst the violence, blood, and gore, there is something romantic about Olav’s line of work. Or perhaps, it’s Olav himself. Nesbø gave his readers a larger than life character that’s neither good or bad; hero nor villain; a saint, as much as he was a sinner.
Jo Nesbø’s latest work is good enough for inexperienced noir readers. It’s not as evolved as perhaps his Harry Hole series, but highly recommended if you’ve ever thought of trudging through an unexplored genre.