This is a stand-alone book by Jo Nesbo, a thriller described as “electrifying” in the blurb.
While it tells the story of a contract killer, Olav, known as “a fixer”, a surprisingly likeable if not sympathetic “gun for hire” whose boss hires him to remove someone and for whom, over a very short period of time, Olav develops feelings for, complicating his professional status, it’s also a tale about love and betrayal.
Olav is represented as a person who fell into being a hitman because he’s unable to perform the other tasks expected of a criminal such as driving the getaway car. He’s also self-aware – of his failures and foibles – and despite his occupation, possesses a conscience. He seems to genuinely care for those affected by his deadly work – the humans that form part of the collateral damage when someone close to them is murdered.
Though I have loved the Harry Hole series and really enjoyed the two other stand alones by Nesbo I’ve read, this one just didn’t seem to reach the lyrical and graphic heights of the others – not in terms of plot (which was predictable and a little too neat) or in characterisation. This is especially true of the women. One of the female leads was so two-dimensional and unconvincing that you couldn’t believe any of the relationships she formed let alone that someone would develop deep feelings for her and put so much at risk. The other, well, beset by disabilities and tragedy, she became a cipher for sympathy and never rang true.
Also described as a meditation on life and death, the book offers some profound insights, and Nesbo’s writing is taut and lovely to read, but for some reason, this story, short for Nesbo as well, just missed the mark for me.