I read this in just a few hours today, the day after Thanksgiving--fitting, given what the book's about. I'm happy to say that this book also is maybe the first of Jo Nesbo's books that I haven't been at least a little chagrined with. It's also in 1st person, but it doesn't cop-out like his latest non-Harry Hole, Blood on Snow. That one had a short chapter at the end that was in 3rd person, after the whole book previously had been in 1st person. This one doesn't cheat like that, and is told in 1st person the whole way.
Nesbo plays with his following here, as he knows he's known as a writer who writes about potentially bad men who try to be good, and it doesn't work out for them. (See: Blood on Snow.) This one almost has the same set-up, but the big difference here is that the fixer here never fixes anybody, even at the end, when he really needs to. Well, then he does, but that's okay. And this guy--who calls himself Ulf--had even stolen all that money to pay for a little girl's cancer treatments. Nesbo goes out of his way here--perhaps a bit too much--to show us that this guy is a good guy. He is that, perhaps a bit unrealistically.
Speaking of that, this is yet another book in which the main character falls head over heels for a younger woman with a young child and no husband. While this occasionally happens in real life, what doesn't normally happen (or, shouldn't) is that said woman puts herself and her child in danger by helping out said main male character. We've all heard of stories in which a parent sadly chooses bad man over her own child, but even in real life, it doesn't happen like this. Stephen King has had a mini-genre doing this--See: Bag of Bones--but it's beginning to get to me a little bit. The female character always says she can't be with the guy or help the guy because she has to think of her kid first, and then she does it anyway! Now if the said character were a bit scattered to begin with, this may be a bit easier to swallow, but most of these female characters--including the one here--is so straight-laced and responsible that it comes across as unrealistic. It does so here, for me, anyway. It doesn't detract from the reading, but it made me roll my eyes a bit. I mean, we all understand the pipe dream, and it seems to effect writers when they hit 45 or so, but, come on...These woman, of course, also profess their love for these shadowy guys. In this case, she literally throws herself at him. Hey, you take your ego trip, I'll take mine, I guess, but, jeez...
But I digress. Obviously this was a good read, as I began and finished it's almost-300 pages in a few hours. There's a bit of philosophical and religious pondering here, which has slipped into Nesbo's work lately, and the narrator again seems to know a little bit more about--in this case--William Blackstone (who founded Blackstone, Massachusetts, which is a lot closer to my neck of the woods than it is to Nesbo's Oslo), Kierkegaard, and other blokes that, I'm guessing, your typical Norwegian fixer wouldn't ordinarily know. This speaks more of Nesbo, I think, than it does his characters, and it may be time now for him to look at that. I've got a philosophy degree, so I certainly appreciate that he tries to go there, but, really, how many fixers who say they don't know anything about anything will actually know this stuff?
But I digress, again. Sorry. The fact is that this is pretty entertaining stuff, even if you wonder why the woman, in a town of about 50, lets herself be seen with this guy, alone in her house, driving with him...and, yeah, she runs into her sort-of brother-in-law after a 45-minute drive to Alta, a bigger city, which is sort of like me running into one of my exes when I go to Fenway. Not yet. And they run into a woman he'd just been with--on the same drive! But it works, somehow. There are a few oddly amusing passages where you'd least expect them--this happened in Blood on Snow, too--though here they seem more purposely out of left field, like we're given permission to know that it won't all end up like the previous, very similar novel and 1st person narrator.
It doesn't, and you'll probably be able to see how it's all going to come together before it does, which I suppose is part of the charm. This narrator isn't a bad guy, at all, after all, and so we feel he deserves to get away, though readers and writers shouldn't moralize. So if you were disappointed with the last one, which I was, although it deserved the otherwise good write-up I gave it, then you'll be very satisfied with this one, as it's almost a complete opposite of the same story, with the same set-up and almost the exact same situations. You'll probably roll your eyes, as I did, but you'll wish well for everyone, and it'll turn out the way you'll want it to.