Nesbo, Jo. Blood on Snow.

NY: Knopf, 2015.

This one is a departure for Nesbo, being a standalone novel and not part of the Harry Hole series. Moreover, the protagonist isn’t even close to being one of the Good Guys, but the author manages to make him sympathetic anyway. Or at least understandable.

Olav Johansen of Oslo is a hit man because, he says, he’s a failure at the other criminal trades he has attempted. He’s a poor get-away driver because he’s “suspicious” even when he’s obeying the traffic laws, he’s s terrible assistant-pimp because he falls in love too easily, and he worries about the psychological effects on the victims when he takes part in a bank robbery. Besides which, he’s dyslexic and also bad at math. So his boss, Hoffman, an up-and-coming crime boss, gives him a tryout as a “fixer.” Turns out he’s really good at fixing people. Killing is his niche.

And now Hoffman wants Olav to fix his wife, who apparently is having an affair. But the first time he meets the straying Mrs. Hoffman, the hit man falls for her, badly. And all his plans go downhill from there.

Olav is an odd sort of character. He deprecates his abilities constantly. “I was thinking. I usually try to avoid doing that. It’s not an area where I see any hope of improvement with practice, and experience has taught me it rarely leads to anything good.” On the other hand, he enjoyed school as a kid and he still reads a lot — including Victor Hugo — and he obviously has at least a passing acquaintance with the major Western philosophers.

Nesbo is pretty good with the language, too, even in translation. The time between making the decision to kill someone and carrying out the hit “were the only minutes of my admittedly short life when I was someone. I was someone’s destiny.” Or, “I held her incredibly carefully, like one of the dried flowers I sometimes found in the pages of a book from the library.” That’s also an insight into who Olav really is, underneath it all.

This is a pretty short book, barely 200 pages, and it reads quickly. The plot is convoluted and the relative handful of characters are very nicely drawn. A good way to use up a rainy afternoon.

Published in: on 13 May 2016 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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