Book review: “Blood on Snow”

blood on snow

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Jo Nesbø, Norway’s reigning King of Crime, has a new protagonist. After ten novels starring the flawed but likeable Inspector Harry Hole and two stand-alones (The Headhunters and The Son), Nesbø introduces Olav Johansen.

Olav is a “fixer,” a professional killer. He works for Daniel Hoffman, one of the most powerful drug bosses in Oslo, who has an endless list of people to be eliminated. Olav accepts each assignment without hesitation. That is, until his boss orders him to kill his unfaithful wife. Olav initially agrees, but after he lays eyes on his intended victim, he does hesitate. He is not suddenly troubled by a guilty conscience; he is simply quite taken by the woman’s beauty. He opts not to kill her and this decision will, of course, greatly complicate his life.

This novel differs considerably from Nesbø’s previous ones. In fact, it might be considered a long short story or a novella rather than a novel. It is not Nesbø’s usual multi-layered, fast-paced crime novel with a complex plot and a rich cast of characters.

Some readers may welcome a break from Nesbø’s lengthy novels. This is an enjoyable read that can captivate the reader for a few hours. Olav tells his story in the first person and sheds abundant light on what makes him tick. The plot is quite straightforward with a handful of interesting characters—Olav, Hoffman, his wife Corinna, the Fisherman, and Olav’s love interest, the deaf and dumb Maria.

Olav is far from being a hardened criminal. One might even feel sympathy for him. He had a difficult time at school because of his dyslexia. He had a miserable home life because of his abusive father. In fact, at a certain point, he could tolerate the abuse no longer, especially that directed against his mother, and he killed his father. He then discovered that, after killing one person, killing others came easily. He readily fell into his job as a hired assassin, claiming that it was his destiny since his violent streak was in his genes.

After refusing to kill his boss’s wife and deciding instead to protect her, Olav must remain alert and be proactive, eliminating people before they eliminate him. Blood on Snow keeps the reader engaged with its twists and turns until it reaches its evitable end.

Leonardo DiCaprio may produce and star in a film adaption. A sequel, More Blood on the Water, is in the offing.

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.