Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review of "Headhunters: A Novel" by Jo Nesbø

FYI: This book is a standalone, with no connection to Jo Nesbo's "Harry Hole" series.

Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter in Oslo, Norway who prides himself on being the best in his profession. He wears expensive designer clothes, drives a classy car, and lives in an elegant home. To top it off, Roger - who's self-conscious about being short - is thrilled to be married to tall, beautiful, blonde Diana. To keep Diana happy (and to make up for the abortion he convinced her to have) Roger recently purchased his wife a posh art gallery.

Roger has a secret though. He's living way above his means and can't afford his high-flying lifestyle. Thus Roger has taken to stealing valuable paintings to supplement his salary. Moreover, the headhunter cleverly uses his job to locate expensive artrworks to take. When interviewing potential clients Roger casually directs the conversation to art, and asks what valuable paintings they own.....and the naive dunces blab away.

Soon after Roger's latest heist Diana has a private viewing at her gallery. There Diana introduces Roger to art-loving Dutchman Clas Greve who, in her opinion, would be a perfect client for Roger's business. So Roger interviews Greve and discovers that the Dutchman owns a lost masterpiece - "The Calydonian Boar Hunt" - by Peter Paul Rubens. Roger immediately hatches a plan to steal the painting but, unfortunately for him, Greve has an agenda of his own. Additionally, wily Greve is a hardened veteran soldier and the former CEO of a company that makes cutting edge surveillance/bugging equipment.

After the "The Calydonian Boar Hunt" is stolen, Roger makes a momentous discovery and the book becomes a fast-moving adventure story with some REALLY cringeworthy scenes. For example, Roger immerses himself in the poop and pee-filled collection tank of an outhouse; is almost suffocated between dead and dismembered bodies; impales a vicious dog on steel tines; and more.

The book has a dark comedy vibe throughout, along with some clever twists. I enjoyed "Headhunters" but it's not one of my favorite Nesbo books. The plot is too complex and unbelievable and I disliked most of the characters. Roger especially is arrogant, manipulative, and a self-centered/selfish husband. I did have some sympathy for Roger when things got really rough but never totally wished him well.

The book's okay for a quick read, and I'd mildly recommend it to mystery fans.

Rating: 3 stars

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