Tuesday, 23 July 2013

JO NESBO - HEADHUNTERS


Synopsis/blurb......

Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.

With the month fast disappearing and not having got my Scandinavian crime fiction fix yet, I was, after an exchange of views with Keishon from Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog tempted into giving this standalone book by Nesbo a spin.  Nesbo’s adult books tend to deal with his main character Harry Hole in a series of police procedurals, with Headhunters being his sole venture away from Hole.  My first experience of the author was earlier this year when The Bat, his debut novel was finally released in English for the first time. As the second Hole adventure doesn’t appear until towards the end of this year, my OCD tendencies steered me away from later books in the series, that have long been available in the UK.

Well, how did we get on with Headhunters?   
At 380-odd pages long and only taking maybe 2 or 3 working days to read, it was fast and using the old cliché – a bit of a page-turner.

What was our overall assessment? Enjoyable, interesting, one to recommend?
Hmm.... I would have to say I enjoyed it, without actually being able to gush or enthuse about it dramatically. Would I recommend it.........I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it, but conversely it’s not a book that I will be forcing on to other people either. A bit of a fence-sitting here.

What was the problem then?
Whilst the plot and premise of the book interested me to a degree, my main problem was that Roger Brown wasn’t particularly likeable. There’s a thin line between characters that exude self-confidence and have an appeal that has you rooting for them and characters that emit arrogance and leave you indifferent to their fate. Brown/Nesbo crossed the line, whether Nesbo intentionally portrayed Brown in this unflattering way would be interesting to know. His combatant in Headhunters, Clas Greve instead of contrasting with Brown was of the same ilk, gaining his super-ego from having previously excelled whilst in the Dutch military.
The plot was a little bit far-fetched, but as all fiction is made up words, I was ok suspending belief for the duration of the story. Nesbo introduced a twist towards the end, that whilst not quite telegraphed had a certain predictability about it. I was a little bit confused at the switch around, but not enough to force myself to re-cap and reread maybe the previous 10 or so pages to see if it was totally plausible or to perhaps pick-up on a small hint I may have missed.
The characters I liked most in the book were several of the supporting cast. One whose name escapes me was Brown’s partner in crime. I found myself somewhat sympathetic to him, particularly as he was so hopelessly love-struck, though I’m not sure his paranoid tendencies would have earmarked him as ideal boyfriend material. The second character I enjoyed was Ferdy, Brown’s underling in the workplace. Had both Brown and Greve exploded from a dangerous overload of testosterone, I would happily have watched Ferdy sail in to take the spoils.

Overall?        
I’ll go a 3 from 5. There wasn’t enough about it to merit a 4 or drag it above the barrier of averagely-interestingly- enjoyable. It was better than a 2, insofar as I was never mired in treacle reading it or ever felt like stopping at any point.

I’m unsure where I picked up my copy from. It would have been late last year or early this year, second hand either via Amazon, E-bay or as a book swap.

I haven’t been put off reading more from Nesbo, but as stated before will be holding off until I get my hands on Cockroach.


As a further note, I believe there has been a film adaptation of the book. I haven't been compelled to find out more about it, or hunt it down. 

12 comments:

  1. Not one of my favourite reads - too blokey and I found the characters dull. I also seem to recall it being full of product placement (every gadget and appliance had its brand name mentioned) which made me wonder if he was getting extra $$.

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    1. Bernadette, "too blokey"?
      I wasn't aware such a concept/sub-genre existed!
      I must be in touch with my feelings today, as I would have to agree.
      Can't say I noticed the product placement to be honest, perhaps I was a bit too jaundiced by the muscle flexing?

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    2. I don't think it's an actual sub-genre but for me it's the male equivalent of chick lit - I suppose 'too blokey' is a bit open to interpretation - or mis-interpretation - I suppose it's my mental shortcut for the "manly men doing manly things" trope that bores me witless (as witless as women doing nothing but shop and other 'womanly' pursuits bores me). All the macho posturing and violence for the sake of it. Makes me want to snooze.

      I listened to the audio book which is probably why the product placement was noticeable - it's easy to skip over that kind of thing when I read print but when I listen I hear every word - the notes I scribbled when I read it say "no one mentions the brand name of their fridge when they open it" and later on "ok ok, he's got a snazzy phone". I can't remember what the brands were though so the product placement was wasted :)

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    3. I would have to pick macho posturing over chick-lit any day. If I'm truthful, I don't always mind books of this ilk, though violence for it's own sake can get boring and repetitive. I don't think I'm 100% Neanderthal!

      Product placement I notice more on TV. One Australian tea-time soap my kids insist on watching, I'm sure I see an Apple lap-top at least 5 times an episode!

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  2. Col - I'm glad you found things to like about the book. Interesting how some book will leave us with that feeling of 'Yeah, it was god, but not remarkable or wonderful.' And a protagonist who is sort of off-putting can definitely keep readers from really getting engaged in a story.

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    1. Margot, just one of those books you read that doesn't over-excite or doesn't underwhelm either. I did hope for slightly more, but I wouldn't categorise it as the worst book I ever read, just one that wasn't particularly memorable.

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  3. This sounds like a fair review. I'm usually not so quick to put a book aside due to an unlikable character but I just wasn't in the mood for this one. I did watch the film version, too, btw. It was watchable despite the gore but nothing I would go out of my way to watch or recommend to anyone. I hope Nesbo doesn't write anymore books featuring this character or he and I will have to part ways (if Harry Hole is gone as Nesbo keeping hinting at that he doesn't have immortal life).

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    1. I'd probably pass on a 2nd book featuring Brown if I'm honest.

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  4. Interesting review. I will pass on this one until because I want to read the three Harry Hole books I have and all the others on my TBR stacks. But I was glad to see your view of it, in case I ever run into it.

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    1. Tracy, to be honest you probably wouldn't miss too much if you give it a pass. I'll be interested to see what you think of Harry Hole. I've only read the one myself, so he's not established himself as a favourite yet.

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  5. Not read Jo Nesbo yet but I might lead with the Harry Hole series. I'll probably catch the film version of this book before I read it.

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    1. Prashant, Hole may be a better place to start.

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