After a hiccup (I had discarded the book once but you convinced me to give it another go) I thoroughly enjoyed Jo Nesbø’s The Redbreast and bought the rest of the series before I’d even finished the first book. I haven’t actually gotten around to reading any of them yet because every time I reach for the second book in the series I see its 600+ pages and decide to read something else. Something shorter. But a standalone novel is a whole different box of bananas and shorter than most of the Harry Hole novels so I was keen to read this one. Sadly for me it turned out not to be my cup of tea.
It is the story of Norwegian executive recruitment specialist Roger Brown (I never did discover how he ended up with such a thoroughly English name though concede this is probably my fault…my mind did wander on occasion) whose life spirals out of control in an increasingly gruesome way. Roger has a great job and a beautiful wife who he professes to adore but he feels he needs more money to fund his lifestyle so he has second job as an art thief. In a way, though not the way you might expect, it is this second job that gets him into trouble and sets up the main plot thread of the novel in which Roger matches wits with Clas Greve, a candidate for a top CEO job who ultimately becomes Roger’s arch enemy. The two play a game of cat and mouse across the Norwegian countryside and leave the landscape littered with bodies.
This book didn’t really tick any of the boxes on the list of things I look for in a good thriller and it had quite a few of the things that make me turn off (including scenes featuring poo). I found the characters flat and uninteresting which is probably the biggest problem I can have with a thriller. If characters are to be unlikeable I want them to be really unlikeable; the kind of people whose painful demise I guiltily yet eagerly anticipate. Here I just thought the two main characters were dull and I didn’t much care which of them lived, died or got the girl. The main woman was a non event; being defined only by her relationship to the men in the story and having a laughingly unbelievable relationship to her husband.
The story was a bit better than the characters but its cartoonish quality resulted in me not really being able to care about its many, increasingly implausible twists and I found myself picking apart relatively minor things like dodgy physics and technology. In a book I am enjoying I let that kind of thing was over me but here I wasn’t really engaged by the story and so the things stood out more (I can’t go into more detail without spoiling). Another thing which leapt out rather disconcertingly was the clunky product placements for brands of fridge, beer, furniture, clothing and so on. I go to some lengths to avoid being advertised at constantly so it really annoys me when it happens as part of a narrative. For me the ending to the book lost it half a star on my personal rating scale, seeming to lose the guts to be a tale of true noir right at the crucial moment and having a very clunky denouement.
I have something of a soft spot for high class thieves (blame my mother’s yen for Cary Grant which resulted in me watching To Catch a Thief dozens of times as a kid) so I was probably predisposed to liking this novel but it was not to be. To me it felt like a loosely connected series of vignettes in which bad stuff happened to not very nice people (and one poor dog) and not a lot in the way of thrills. As always alternative opinions are available and you shouldn’t just take my word for it.
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My rating 2/5
Narrator Sean Barrett
Publisher Random House Audiobooks 
ISBN N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 7 hours 50 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
Source I bought it