Review: Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Book info:
Form: Kindle e-book
Genre: thriller, crime story
Target audience: adults

An artist who maintains that he has been misunderstood is almost always a bad artist who, I’m afraid to say, has been understood.” (loc. 773)

 “The world is full of people who pay serious money for bad pictures by good artists. And mediocre heads on tall bodies.” (loc. 518) 

 “Noble, loyal souls are often handicapped by loyalty to even the basest of individuals. Well, especially the base individuals.”

Roger Brown, the narrator of this novel is one of the best Norvegian corporate headhunters. In his humble opinion he is of course the very best. Unfortunately he is rather short (1.68 m or 5.5 feet) and let’s face it, in his little world size and first impressions matter.
Roger has many ways to compensate for the missing centimeters. He lives in an enormous vintage villa, he has a lovely, supermodel-thin and even quite intelligent wife (of course far higher than him), Diane, who has been given an art gallery from her loving husband. He has a mistress (of course far shorter than him), Lotte, who is a sad, suppressed, miserably lonely translator (but quite good in the sack). He has even a kind of hobby, if stealing different pieces of art and selling them on the black market can be called so. It is still not enough. He must prove himself he is the best every single day. By the way his career, no matter how profitable, simply can’t support his luxurious lifestyle and the fledgling art gallery of his demanding wife. That’s why for Rogerstealing is as much a necessity as a thrilling hobby.
One day our headhunter spots a perfect business opportunity – it is called Clas Greve, a former co-owner of HOTE, one of Dutch telecommunication and surveillance companies. Roger wants him to become a new CEO of a similar company in Norway which produces sophisticated GPS devices. Up to a point everything is going very well: Clas, after initial reluctance, proves to be quite willing to take up the new job and, to his own delight, Roger finds out that his mark even owns a very expensive if not priceless Rubens masterpiece, allegedly  lost since WWII. Hobby and work combined in one highly profitable bundle – what cheer! While stealing it from Clas’s unfinished apartment Roger accidentally finds out that Mr. Greve most likely knows Diane far more intimately than he was supposed to. With this discovery all the hell is let loose – Roger finally finds an opponent on a par with himself when it comes to stamina, hunting skills and manipulation. Their vicious, dirty fight for supremacy will include a couple of murders and a lot of excrements.
What I liked:
This novel is a stand-alone, not another installment of the Harry Hole series (its first part I reviewed not so long ago) .As usual with Nesbo the plot  was like a rollercoaster ride– very fast, very entertaining, riveting to the end, a page-turner, nothing less. The author has a storytelling talent, there is no doubt of it. Apart from that Nesbo’s keen knowledge of human nature and sharp, dry  sense of humor make this thriller far more readable than your average novel of this genre. Yes, it includes a bit of bathroom humour (be warned – no eating while reading certain scenes!) but all things considering it remained still palatable, even if barely so.
Beside the very high amusing factor this book pushed my other buttons. It mentioned some famous paintings and, generally, art. It explained in a very funny way a method of recruiting and/or interrogation called Inbau, Reid and Buckley’s nine step model (yes, it is real and used).
Ok now something about the main “headhunter” Roger Brown. I liked him more than I should have. Let me assure you that he is a loathsome human being, but his powerful enemies are at least as clever, opportunistic, and amoral as he is. No matter whether you sympathize with his ordeal or not, you will certainly laugh with him and even root for him from time to time. Still his adventures don’t make Roger a “white hat”, not really, even though his rival is a ruthless, manipulative psychopath with special forces training.
What I didn’t like:
The first person narrative was sometimes so misleading that almost annoying. I know in such books the first person is used in order not to reveal too much too early, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats (and accordingly our hero omits important info leaving you completely befuddled and craving for more several times). After a while I admit I was rather tired by all those twists, turns and fireworks, especially near the ending. I had a feeling all was happening a bit too fast, almost as if I watched one of Disney cartoons with Tom and Jerry – all action, little sense. There were many moments when I had to suspend belief  and even then the plot seemed just too slick and shallow.
After a while (like in the second part) I started wondering: is this one of the early Nesbo novels? Perhaps it was written with a very strict deadline hovering over the author’s neck? This book definitely has a potential but, in my humble opinion, it failed to deliver. Even the baddies weren’t as fully-fledged as I expected them to be. Once again it seems that, having all the necessary ingredients, the author lacked time or will to work on that more. Small wonder this book was adapted for cinema – it is good but not overly demanding and just flashy enough to interest the widest audience possible.
Final verdict:
If you haven’t read any of Nesbo novels, you can start with this one – everything else will be only better. If you, however, have already discovered one of the Harry Hole books you can skip “Headhunters” or watch the movie. It wasn’t bad, not at all; it was a really decent thriller with all the necessary features and even more; my problem was that after some Harry Hole novels it seemed a bit tawdry to me. Still it kept me entertained.
The Calydonian Boar Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens.
A lot of fuss and some funny people busy killing – like in this book.
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