Moving away from the Harry Hole series, Nesbø offers up this novella whose protagonist sits on the other side of the law. Meet Olav Johansen, a criminal with a sordid past, who has come to learn that he is good at only one thing, being a ‘fixer’. He’s employed by Oslo’s drug kingpin, Daniel Hoffmann. When Olav is sent to dispose of Hoffmann’s wife, Corina, a purported adulteress, he thinks it will be as easy as his other ‘jobs’, but things turn problematic. Olav does his own reconnaissance, which leads him to fall for Corina and the plan changes. An abusive lover seems more worthy of killing, so Olav does what he feels is best. It is only then that Olav realises how problematic his decision has become. As he hides Corina, Olav approaches Hoffmann’s drug rival, willing to help create a monopoly in the drug market, should ‘The Fisherman’ want a fix of his own. As Olav sets his plan in motion, he begins to reflect on his life and choices he’s made, as well as what brought him to a life of crime. As events spiral out of control, Olav learns the importance of love, though he’s spent a lifetime dodging it and keeping at arm’s length from anyone who might offer it to him. A shift in Nesbø style from the Hole work, but just as interesting, in this novella format.
“This ain’t no Harry Hole novel,” is how I might preface my recommendation of this book to anyone who is curious. I thought I would expand my Nesbø reading and look at some of these other works. While Olav Johansen is no crime fighter, he does have a deeper and somewhat darker side that might interest readers. As he parallels his life struggles to Hugo’s protagonist in Les Misérables, Olav finds himself on a journey of self-reflection, all based on the one fix he cannot complete. As Nesbø takes readers down some of the seedier streets of Oslo, the narrative still moves effectively, though this first person point of view differs greatly from that of the Hole novels. Still, it is well worth the short time it will take to read. I am eager to see how the sequel (and third in the collection) match up, which appear to be as brief as this.
Kudos Mr. Nesbø for a refreshing look at Oslo’s underbelly. Great ideas create highly entertaining pieces of fiction.