Melissa Westbrook's Reviews > Hodejegerne

Hodejegerne by Jo Nesbø
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

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bookshelves: best-seller, scandinavian, thriller, fiction, commerce
Read from March 04 to 06, 2012

"Headhunters" by Jo Nesbo is a dark thriller of a story about a self-esteem lacking recruitment agent whose pleasant, quite self-absorbed middle class life is turned upside down when one of his recruits rebuffs his job placement advances - and then tries to kill him. It's a fast paced story riddled with twists and unpredictable and unexpected turns, narrated with such a noir feel that it is almost to the point of being a black comedy in places. Roger, also an art thief on the sly, confronts the perils before him and in the process is forced to confront some home truths about his personal outlook on life. He has to think fast and figure out who exactly it is that he can trust. The results are twists that will keep the reader guessing.

Overall this story is lacking in substance in quite a few areas in which it purports to deal with emotively charged issues. The choices of such subject matter though are quite intriguing. Unlike the feminism-charged political mantra of the Millennium novels this is a very male book set in a very male corporate world where becoming "king of the heap" is the central goal. From this setting there is borne a story arc of male competitiveness and themes surrounding the role of the male in a relationship in fulfilling the emotional needs of a woman. The psychological and physical aspects of emasculation are addressed and the book is certainly not poorer for exploring these male vulnerabilities and how this innate sense of competitiveness can also force them to confront them.

Where the book falls short is the attention to detail in terms of setting the scene and character development. The main character commences as a very arrogant, self-absorbed individual seemingly almost psychopathically committed to avoiding addressing the emotional needs of his wife. There is some redemption and a kind of metamorphosis during the course of the story, however the origins of the original, younger version of himself that Roger has remembered and returned to are not addressed in detail. This may have been to keep the book within acceptable length but some dialogue would have been helpful for understanding the past events that made him the rather emotionally stunted individual he came to be at the commencement of the story. The redemption therefore does not have quite the impact for the reader it could have. The fact that he is no superhero and is then thrown into this criminal situation is an interesting change from the American hero type thrillers.

The character of his wife, Diana, is also quite hollow and one rather gets the impression that Nesbo doesn't write women well. The lack of attention to detail in developing that character actually made her quite difficult to separate from another character in the book.

The up side of the lack of description is that the text is not convoluted. The Stieg Larsson novels describe everything in quite a cluttered way and this book is free of that. It allows the reader to concentrate on a quite intricately weaved thriller story.

There are several scenes that are just made for movies gold. Nesbo's main talent as a writer, it seems, is coming up with imaginative (but reasonably realistic - no Stieg Larsson supernatural strength moments here) situations to drop his characters into. It doesn't surprise me that this is a story soon to be released as a movie, one I will be interested to see.

It's also quite gruesome, which is quite unusual for a noir. The savageness and the bluesy tone of the main characgter are at times hard to reconcile.

There's a lot about this book that doesn't quite work but there's still a lot to appreciate in terms of theme and uniqueness.

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Reading Progress

03/05/2012 page 140
03/06/2012 "Finished!"

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