Book Review: Nesbø’s new book brings less blood
Christine Foster Meloni
Although Midnight Sun is a sequel to Blood on Snow, the connection is tenuous. Both protagonists are Fixers (i.e. hitmen) for powerful drug lords in Oslo, but they have very different personalities and take decidedly different paths.
Midnight Sun’s Jon Hansen is comfortable enough in his role as a petty drug dealer and has no ambition to become a fixer. When the Fisherman calls him up, however, he cannot refuse. He is given the unpleasant job of eliminating Gustavo, a street dealer who has stolen money and drugs from his boss. But when the time comes, Hansen cannot bring himself to pull the trigger.
Hansen comes up with a possible solution. He thinks his finger will obey if he can’t see his victim’s face. He throws Gustavo his hat and tells him to cover his face. He thus becomes “a soft, blue doll’s head with no features.”
But Hansen still hesitates. Gustavo senses his discomfort and offers Hansen a way out. He suggests that Hansen spare him and then they can share the money. He promises to disappear so that Hansen can also collect the bonus from the Fisherman. The potential fixer agrees because he will earn a large sum of money without having to kill his victim.
The plan fails, however, because the Fisherman needs to see the corpse. Therefore, Hansen needs to leave Oslo as fast as he can. He hops a bus and heads north, far beyond the Arctic Circle, and jumps off in the town of Kåsund. This town is located in Finnmark, the northernmost and easternmost county of Norway. It is also the largest and the least populated Norwegian county.
Is Hansen now far enough away from the Fisherman’s reach? He doubts it because he knows that “The Fisherman always finds what he is looking for. Always. That’s why he’s called the Fisherman.”
Hansen tries to keep a low profile in Kåsund, where he finds himself in a Sámi community. He is befriended by Lea and her son Knut, members of the local Laestadian Lutheran church. Laestadianism, a conservative revival movement started among the Sámi in the middle of the 19th century, emphasizes forgiveness. Hansen gradually begins to regret his immoral way of life and seems ready to start a new life. But three of the Fisherman’s henchmen eventually discover his hiding place and are ready to “fix” him. Nesbø knows, of course, that the reader will be pulling for Hansen, hoping that Lea and Knut can save him.
This novel is quite different from Nesbø’s previous novels. In fact, the reader may not guess it was written by Nesbø if his name were not on the cover because it does not have a large cast of characters and a complex plot. Its predecessor, Blood on Snow, does not have these characteristics either, but it has more action, more tension, and more suspense (and more blood). It would not be a surprise if the reader guessed instead that the author was Karin Fossum, Norway’s Queen of Crime. She does in-depth psychological studies of her characters who are frequently like Hansen, decent people who for some reason have gone bad.
Nesbø does not delve into Hansen’s mind as Fossum would and does not tell us much about the Sámi people, which she might. While not Nesbø’s best novel, Midnight Sun is a good read and gives readers a break from his lengthy, complicated novels.
A review of Nesbø’s Blood on Snow appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of NAW. Midnight Sun (translated from the Norwegian Mere Blod by Neil Smith) will be available from Knopf on February 16.
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, DC. She values her Norwegian heritage.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 5, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.