[::Long, deep sigh:: Let's get through the next four years together, Reader, you and I. Okay, moving on...]
Photo: from Bostonglobe.com, via this link
Very tight story, in 1st person except for the last short chapter--a bit of a writerly cheat, that--about a professional hitman, sort of like Leon, who is told to "fix" his boss's wife. He falls in love with her from a distance, of course, and instead wants to save her. Or does he? The story descends (not in a bad way, but you feel the story is a descent of some kind) from there, with a bit of self-deception. You might like the ending, or you might not, but there's no denying that it fits. He waits for a woman to take stock of her business before closing for the night, but he instead "takes stock" of himself. (GET IT?) And, like the rest of us, sometimes, especially in our darkest nights, he doesn't like what he sees.
It's noir, so each of his nights is our darkest night. That's the genre, take it or leave it. By the way, rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio has been attached to an adaptation of this book since 2014. IMDB says it's "in development," but it's been in that stage of purgatory for two years now.
The book reads a bit like Stephen King's Blaze, in the sense that it's taut and interesting, and it moves, though you've seen it all before, and probably will again. That's okay here; in fact, it's part of the allure, maybe. You know the wife will be up to no good--she's cheating on her husband, after all, which is why he wants her "fixed"--and wait until you see who she's cheating with. That's probably the new slant of this story. You probably haven't seen that before. I can't remember the last time I saw it. [Austrian accent.] What do you think about that, Dr. Freud?
It's American Noir taking place in Norway, which doesn't exactly make it Nordic Noir. Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo's main cash cow, is more Nordic Noir than this is, so this is a welcome relief if you've tired of Nesbo's series, as I have. (Couldn't stand it when he killed off Hole's female partner, without anyone shedding a tear, and even had her cut up in many little pieces. Worse, you could see that coming a mile away, as all the characters, including Hole, are just standing there with their thumbs in the air.) Anyway, this really could have taken place anywhere, though the ending needs a frozen night. But, hell, you can get that around my neck of the woods, and it's blizzards right now in the Midwest.
So this is a good, quick read, which I ate up in about four total hours over two days. As usual with a Nesbo book, I had a minor bad taste in my mouth at the end, this time about the writer cheat of telling the book in first person, except for the very short third person final chapter. (A recent read, from Frank Tallis, did the same thing, except Tallis steps around the cheat by giving us some medical reports that we were expecting, rather than a blatant break of the wall.) The ending made sense in a thematic way, though it may not end as you'd hope, though why it matters with someone who's killed scores of people is maybe a mystery, and a testament of a sort of Nesbo's ability to humanize the monstrous main character. Again, no denying Nesbo's writing ability, and maybe I'm the only one who walks away slightly disappointed with every Nesbo book. I feel that it is more me than him, which is why I'm rating it like I am.
Coming soon: Movie reviews of Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival, plus this year's Comic Con in RI.