I’m a huge fan of Jo Nesbo’s. As a writer, he manages to deliver consistently excellent plots with deeply real characters and the kind of writing that both makes your heart race and leaves you spitting through your teeth with envy. There’s a scene in The Leopard where he’s trapped in a mountain cabin that’s been buried by an avalanche, and I swear my own breathing stopped, and I had to whip the duvet off to avoid the crushing claustrophobia that came over me. *That’s* good writing for you.
Headhunters is the first of Jo Nesbo’s books that I’ve read that hasn’t featured Harry Hole. I decided to put aside the rest of his books and take this one on face value. Having said that, it is not quite as good as the others, but I suspect that’s because you don’t have time to grow to love the characters. And, it has to be said, not a single character is loveable. But it is funny, and it is suspenseful, and it has to have the best outhouse scene since Slumdog Millionaire.
Roger Brown is a headhunter specialising in CEO-level jobs. He’s very good at what he does, which is a good thing, because he leads a very expensive lifestyle. His beautiful wife runs an art gallery, and in additional to providing the financial backing for this, he makes sure that he gives her a big house, a flash car, and everything her heart desires, except for the baby that she wants and he doesn’t.
Roger makes a good living, but it isn’t enough, so he has a sideline in art theft. It’s the combination of his day job and his night one that gets him into big trouble when an exciting prospect for an executive job is introduced to him by his wife at her gallery.
I’ll leave it there, as I don’t want to give away spoilers, but it is a cracking read. Nesbo has little time for the sort of high-octane, materialistic, yummy mummy, Range Rover driving, designer posers that his Oslo seems to be full of, and his Roger Brown is their king. There’s a scene where he’s trying to figure out the background of a man by guessing his aftershave. He’s sure it’s a particular brand. ‘Or something in that price range anyway.’ Little snippets of interior monologue like this help to build up a sense of a man who judges others solely by their net worth, and expects others to do the same to him. Everything that Rogers gets in the book, every horrible, painful, freaky thing, you can imagine is what Nesbo would love to see happen to Oslo’s elite (of which he clearly also is…). It makes for a highly entertaining read, where the baddies all get their grotesque comeuppance (or at least most of them do), and there’s even a clever twist (or two, or three…). I’m still waiting patiently for the next Harry novel to be translated into English, but no one does crime as well as Nesbo, including here.