Review: Jo Nesbo – Blood on Snow

517Sl6iwsUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’m a big fan of Jo Nesbo’s books. I know he’s not to everyone’s taste but I love the sheer readability of what he produces and, if I’m to be honest, the bloody nature of his narratives. He’s best known, in translation at least, for his series featuring the Oslo detective Harry Hole although I also enjoyed his two standalone books, The Son and Headhunters. Now, with the publication of Blood on Snow, we have a new series to enjoy and a new translator of Nesbo’s writing into English.

 Olav is a ‘fixer’ employed by Daniel Hoffman to eliminate extraneous people from his life. When he is tasked with killing Hoffman’s wife, Olav’s only worry is whether he will be allowed to live afterwards, given the amount of dirt he now has on his employer. But when he catches sight of the beautiful Corina all thoughts of killing her disappear. He instead murders the man with whom she has been having a violent affair and sets off a chain of events that leaves him in the sights of two rival gangs.

Blood on Snow is an interesting book in that it provides many of the things we as readers demand from Nesbo. There’s often a lack of demarcation between the hunter and hunted and Olav finds himself in the position of needing to kill before he is killed. Nesbo has been criticised for his excessive use of violence and there’s plenty of gore here. It’s a difficult one because it feels an essential part of Nesbo’s style of prose and therefore not gratuitous. In fact, it was the sex scenes that were slightly awkward although these were partly explained in the plot’s conclusion.

Blood on Snow is a short book at 198 pages of quite large print. But it packs in plenty of action and, unlike some of Nesbo’s more recent books, feels resolutely set in Oslo. The translation was by Neil Smith who, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, is my favourite translator of Swedish and Norwegian crime fiction. He’s done an excellent job with this new Nesbo and is busy translating the next book in the series. This, based on the blurb, promises to be an even more appealing read.

Review: Liza Marklund – Lifetime

LifetimePoor Annika Bengstrom. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse (house up in flames and husband off with another woman) her estranged ex is now fighting for custody of the kids. Of course it’s Annika’s mix of vulnerability and determination that makes her such as fascinating read and I was delighted when Liza Marklund’s latest book Lifetime came through my door. And as I’ve come to expect from Marklund you get much more than simple murder plot and it’s the diversions that you take in the story that make her books such an interesting read.

David Lindholm is a nationally renowned police officer who is found murdered in his apartment. His wife, Julia, who is found splattered with blood in the bathroom is arrested as the chief suspect. However the couple’s four-year-old son, Alexander, is missing and Julia claims that he was taken by ‘the other woman’. Soon Julia is indicted for murder and even her close friend, police officer Nina Hoffman, is convinced of her guilt. However, Annika, soon scents something amiss about the case. Despite his fame, David Lindholm had a nasty streak to his character and there are some anomalies in his past investigations. His serial philandering also appears to have produced a stalker who may hold the key to the case.

In Lifetime, we move away from the broad sweep of Last Will, which had as its backdrop the Nobel Prize ceremony. This time, we get what appears to be a domestic tragedy which although opens out to involve David’s job, the extent of the human tragedy is never lost. The turbulent domestic life of the victims mirrors Annika’s own problems. She is now homeless and looks for help in finding a temporary place to stay. And of course the people who might help, in particular her friend Anna, come remarkably short of the mark. Even in the direst situations, she manages to find the strength to keep working and digging away at a story. She’s far from perfect: her treatment of a junior colleague is cruel but Annika’s prickly defensiveness is part of her makeup. And her desperation is all to real – which includes agreeing to babysit her children at the house of her husband’s mistress.

There’s a lot in this book apart from the killings. Annika’s newspaper is facing staff cuts and it’s fascinating to read about the internal machinations, including the work of the union rep. There is also an interesting link to the last book and the continuation of the story of that novel’s killer. However, ultimately Annika is the reason, I suspect, a lot of people read Marklund’s books and I think she fast becoming one of my favourite characters in crime fiction.

Thanks to Transworld for the copy of my book. The translation was by Neil Smith.