Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; civil war rages in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.
When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler, Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.
But all is not what it seems. Soon, Jack is accused of murder, sending them on a trail which leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.
What I Thought:
Historical crime fiction? Be still my heart! Once again, Orenda Books highlights the wealth of quality novels currently being written in languages other than English. This time, we’re in pre-war Norway where Jack’s (The Assistant) criminal past catches up with him and puts him in the frame for murder. Plus! Added covert Nazis for an espionage twist…
I really enjoyed the format of this book where we alternate between the 1920s and 1930s, as it carefully reveals where each of the seemingly disconnected threads links up, until the truth – or certain parts of it – are revealed. There are facts cleverly concealed until just the right time to push the story forward and the whole think is brilliantly paced.
Once again, I have to commend the publisher on their choices as Don Bartlett’s translation captures the tone of the two time periods so very well. There is definitely a classic, American noir feel to the book which I’m sure is a result of both author and translator putting in the work – even the femme fatale is complicated and multi-layered!
I very much enjoy both crime and historical fiction, so to see both genres come together in such an exciting story is just great for me – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of the same…
The Assistant is published by Orenda Books.
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eighteen novels, the most prominent of which form a series of police procedurals- cum-psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015 (published in English by Orenda books in 2019). His work has been published in fourteen countries. He lives in Oslo. Follow him on Twitter.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out the participating blogs below?
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.