When one review just isn’t enough … Mandie and I both agree – we loved this book. If you want to know my thoughts you can find them right here. Read on for Mandie’s opinion on Kjell Ola Dahl’s wonderful new historical thriller, The Assistant. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Author
A seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity leads a PI and his ex-con assistant on a murderous trail, in a sophisticated, riveting, cunningly plotted historical Nordic Noir thriller set in interwar and prohibition-era Norway.
Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war 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, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.
Both a fascinating portrait of Oslo’s interwar years, with Nazis operating secretly on Norwegian soil and militant socialists readying workers for war, The Assistant is also a stunningly sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hard-boiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.
The first book I read by Kjell Ola Dahl was The Courier, a historical stand alone that I absolutely fell in love with. When I heard that he had written another historical book I was over the moon, and I have to say that once again I was not disappointed. Split between the timelines of 1924 & 1938 we see how the lives of Jack Rivers and Ludvig Paaske are permanently linked.
At the start of the book, we are introduced to Jack Rivers who at times risks his life and freedom transporting illegal goods around Norway for his boss. On one such trip he is chased by Paaske who works for the Police and is nearly caught, so starting their relationship. As the timeline moves to 1938, we find Paaske has now left the force and has set up a detective agency, assisted by Jack. As the book progresses and it moves between the timelines, we find out exactly what has happened to both of them and how they ended up working together. What starts out as a simple case is marred by murder and lies and you have to wonder if the truth will ever be known.
As a character you have to love Jack. He is very loyal to those he works for and with even when it may not always be in his best interests. The links to his past play a part in the events in the present and occasionally his judgement is clouded by his association with some of the main players. Ludvig Paaske is as different from Jack as you can get. He is very driven to make his business succeed and does at times take pleasure in rubbing his former colleagues in the force up the wrong way. Despite him now working with Jack Rivers, there is always that slight feeling that should push come to shove Paaske would put himself first, no matter who got taken down along the way.
I am going to admit that after devouring The Assistant it is these historical stand-alone books that are my firm favourite. The characters have a depth to them that makes them seem real and the descriptions of the settings give the reader the ability to imagine where the events are taking place, and you also get an insight to Norway in a time of change and uncertainty, and the history of this time is not that well known. If you have not yet discovered Kjell Ola Dhal then this book is a perfect place to start.
About the Author
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 eleven novels, the most prominent of which is 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. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
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Books by Kjell Ola Dahl