The Assistant – Kjell Ola Dahl

Norwegian title: Assistenten

Hi guys!

I’ve finished another crime novel. This one was also nominated for The Silver Dagger of which I am a jury member. It was another unfamiliar author for me but I know he has written a lot of books and my friend Nicole over at BookmarkThat was very excited about the Courier so I had some expectations when I picked this one up. The synopsis is borrowed from Goodreads and translated by me:

Jack Rivers smuggles hard liquor and is hopelessly in love with Amalie. In the aftermath of a unsuccessful police hunt at Minnesund in 1924 Rivers is obtained and arrested by detective Ludvig Paaske.

14 years later we meet Rivers again and now he is the assistant of Paaske who has made a life for himself as a private investigator. One day, Paaske receives a visit from Vera Gruber who suspects her German husband to be cheating on her, and she wants Paaske to keep an eye on him. This is the beginning of a drama involving several agents with a deadly outcome. When a German citizen is killed by the Gestapo on Norwegian soil in 1938 the events begins to unfold.

The Assistant is the kind of crime novel that fascinated me and kept me glued to the pages but if you ask me why I’d have a hard time responding. Dahl writes in a way that makes the pages fly by and for me I think it was the writing more than the story itself which captured me. Dahl has a way of writing that makes his reader really believe in the setting and the characters. There is a seamless flow that carry you through the story. Instead of brutal action there is a continuous tension and as a reader you sit there wondering what’s coming next? What’s happening? How is this connected? Hence the difficulty of putting this book down. There are more action filled parts of the book but not as much as you normally would expect from a Nordic writer. I also enjoyed the way the story alters between 1924 and 1938. These are very different time periods in Norway and I especially enjoyed the local differences within Oslo that Dahl portrays. I always found it especially engaging reading about familiar places, and my inner history geek always gets a blast out of it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this and I’m planning to have my father read this book because he might enjoys this even more than me!

I felt that this book ended rather abruptly because there was a solid plot twist at the end. Maybe the next book will reveal something? Is there a next book Mr. Dahl? Normally I strongly dislike it when an author throws in a plot twist within the last few pages but for this novel it really worked! I had to think of the end for a few moments when I put the book down but it actually made me appreciate the ending more and more. Dahl makes his reader believe that everything is solved and peaceful before he throws the curve ball at you. I was taken completely aback!

This plot twist also made me think about the book’s deeper meaning if we could call it that. Without spoiling too much I think this book in a great scale touches upon whether or not convicts actually gets a fair second chance when they’re let out of prison. Of course we have to include the time period as a very essential factor in this equation but I’m not sure that modern society are as open towards convicted criminals as we might think. I believe, and sincerely hope, that we’ve moved forward since the time period of this book but I’m not sure. I base this assumption on the tendency I feel is within society and my lack of knowledge about the topic which indicates that I have some work to do concerning my own knowledge on the topic. Love it when books points out topics I should learn more about!

If you’re looking for a different kind of crime novel I really recommend that you pick up The Assistant! The language is brilliant, the characters are solid, and by reading between the lines you pick up underlying topics in the story.

Published: 2020

Genre: Crime novel

Theme: History, secrets, betrayal

– The Book Reader

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