2 Mins read

Written by Jo Nesbø — With a growing following stemming from his Harry Hole stories, here Jo Nesbø takes a step away from that series to present a standalone story. The result is a mix of action, violence, dark humour and thievery that manages to entertain despite some flaws.

The novel starts with an introduction to our hero/anti-hero Roger Brown. He is the top recruiter (or headhunter) in Norway and is quick to point that out. He uses FBI techniques and a cold, calculating style to ensure that his clients trust him and that employers will accept his candidates. He never fails. With his success has come a lavish lifestyle, along with a wife whom he admits is out of his league. In order to keep her satisfied with material goods – both to meet her desires, and as substitute for the child he does not want – he also has a second job. Art thief. He uses his relationship with clients to identify art worth stealing.

When he meets Clas Greve, he has the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. There is a position that will pay a handsome sum to the headhunter who finds the right candidate, and Mr Greve happens to be in possession of a painting so valuable it would set up Roger for life. Of course, the heist to steal the painting has unintended consequences that set off the main action in the novel. Roger finds himself hunted by Greve and increasingly unsure of who he can trust.

The novel shines in places. The situations are inventive, and the violence presented in a raw manner. The dialogue is snappy and filled with nice, dark humour. However there are missteps along the way as well. The introduction takes the format of a job interview and is too slow. The story takes 50 pages to get going. Meanwhile, Roger is an unlikeable character through much of the book. He is presented as an anti-hero of sorts, but he comes across as more self-absorbed and arrogant than iconoclastic. There is also a hint of the Hollywood absurd in the art thievery itself.

Eventually the story picks up the pace, and recovers from the slow beginning. The characters become engaging, and the pacing creates a tension that turns the pages. As a whole, it is a flawed but entertaining read. The Kindle edition is a good buy at £3.59.

Harvill Secker

CFL rating: 3 stars

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