It’s set in Oslo in the late 1970s. Olav is a fixer for Daniel Hoffmann, a drug trafficker who’s come up with an ingenious way of getting heroin into the city. The product travels from Afghanistan, through the Soviet Union, and crosses into Norway on a tiny island in the Arctic Ocean that’s shared by both countries but doesn’t have a particularly well-patrolled border. Hoffman’s henchman Olav is not numerically talented enough to be a dealer. Nor was he any good at pimping. He always felt sorry for the girls. Getaway driver? Rubbish at that too. So instead he does what he’s best at – putting a pistol up to someone and ending their existence. He shifts units, as he sees it.
When Hoffman finds out his wife has been cheating on him he decides not to kill the cuckold, but to get his wife ‘fixed’. Olav is the first man he calls. So our anti-hero sets up observation of Corina Hoffmann in order to work out the best way to kill her without being caught and without Hoffmann getting the jacket for murder. Trouble is, cat-like and full-breasted, she is a sensual woman and Olav falls in love with her. Instead of carrying out his mission, he kills the man who visits Corina during the day for bouts of rough sex.
While Hoffman’s not happy to hear it, Corina treats Olav like he’s a knight in shining armour and soon she’s hiding with him in his apartment. Not long after that, they are in bed together. Olav decides the only way for their love to last will be if he fixes Hoffmann and they flee to Paris together. The only problem is he has no money. So he pays a visit to The Fisherman, another Oslo crime lord who is Hoffmann’s enemy and therefore his own enemy too. Olav is set on a course that will see him hide in a coffin in a church crypt, trigger cocked not knowing who he can trust.
This is the tale of a hitman with a heart who, the minute he senses the redeeming power of love in his life, must make some difficult choices. His search for something good, after a life so bad, exposes his weaknesses as well. The story is driven by Olav’s character and Nesbo is, as ever, a perfect storyteller. The things that made Olav what he is – from his father’s brutality to his mother’s alcoholism and on to his own dyslexia – are peeled away and yet the narrative never misses a beat. We see our anti-hero discovering some hope of salvation, and we also see his world disintegrate. Can he live the dream and run away with Corina Hoffmann?