Title: Blood and Snow
Rating: 4 Stars
First of all, I just realized that apparently the last two casual fiction books (the ones that I read when I’m exercising) have featured a hit man as a protagonist (see Quarry’s List). I’m not sure what that says about me, but it certainly says that I need to be a bit more creative in my book selection.
This was well crafted. It’s told in first person by the hit man, Olav. Olav is dyslexic and apparently somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum. He has difficulty reading people and is very awkward. Hit man is apparently the only job that he’s actually competent at.
The story itself is somewhat banal. After a successful career to this point killing people, his boss wants him to kill the boss’ wife. Getting this close to the boss’ business seems dangerous to Olav and he hesitates before committing to the job. Furthermore, the wife is beautiful and appears vulnerable. As Olav watches her to plan how to kill her, he starts to fall for her.
This of course unleashes a chain of events, involving the boss’ main competitor and various other henchmen and hit men.
There are two things that raise this book above the average. One is the unexpected moments of humor. Although I never read the book, The Headhunters, by Nesbo, I did watch the Norwegian movie, which I found quite humorous, albeit in a strange dark way. At one point, I knew a person that would visit from Norway, and he attested to the fact that Nesbo novels, in their original Norwegian, often have darkly humorous elements. I’ve read several of the Harry Hole novels where I did not pick up on this. I’m just wondering if I just happen to be reading a better translation that communicates Nesbo’s intent more effectively.
The other element is the mild post-modern elements. Olav had a traumatic childhood and then subsequent time spent as a hit man has not left him in a completely rational state. Since the story is told first person through him, at times it’s pretty clear that the narration is unreliable. This leads to several effective and affective passages in the work.
For what it’s worth, the ending, although on one level is effective, on another seems to be a little too pat. You have a desperately injured man, dying, on the run, trying to make it to his true love so that he can die at her feet. Is that romantic? It seems pretty similar to how Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves finishes.