As you can see from the front of the book Headhunters will soon be a “MAJOR MOTION PICTURE” although technically it already is. Released in 2011 from Norway the film opened to positive reviews from both sides of the Atlantic. I am surprised that a Hollywood motion picture studio has not already given Headhunters the “Hollywood remake treatment.” Hollywood was certainly quick enough to re-make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Headhunters is a relatively short book, almost a novella, at only 265 pages. But in this “short” novel Jo Nesbo manages to pack one hell of a great sucker punch for the reader lucky enough to have stumbled upon his book.
I became a Nesbo fan after coming across a blurb talking about his latest Harry Hole thriller. The name was enough to make me curious and I read the Hole book (sorry about the pun) and fell in love with not only his protagonist, but the writer as well. Although Headhunters does not feature Harry nor is it part of the series, Nesbo displays the same crisp narrative as he does for his serial killer hunter.
Headhunters starts with introducing us to Roger Brown, he’s an exclusive (top of the heap, he says) recruiting specialist aka a headhunter. He’s the best at what he does and is well compensated for his efforts. He uses a 7 point FBI interrogation model as his interview template and he is ruthless in his search for the right candidate.
Brown also suffers from what a friend of mine amusingly refers to as “short man’s attitude.” In other words his lack of height makes him a bit egotistical and aggressive. He also highly values his own capabilities as a recruiter, husband, and thief.
It turns out that Roger has a pretty opulent lifestyle, one which he supplants with art theft from his potential candidates. Using the interview as a distraction and a means to discover what valuable art the interviewees own, he then steals them with the aid of his criminal partner.
One candidate, Clas Greve (a high flyer in the world of GPS manufacture and an ex-mercenary) has a priceless painting by Paul Rueben and here is where the story takes off. It changes from the Napoleon-esque ramblings of egocentric Roger Brown and becomes a fight for survival.
The opening salvo from Nesbo is a scene where Roger is in a crashed car surrounded by dead bodies and Roger is extolling his thoughts on car crashes and the resultant mayhem caused by them. He finishes his thoughts with the explanation that he is a murderer and that his time is short. He then goes on to relay his story to us via the first person narrative which works very well for the book.
Nesbo is brilliant at setting up stories that move quickly and efficiently throughout. His pacing is electric and his characters stand out. He is also not averse to pulling the metaphorical wool over the eyes of his readers. Roger goes through a character arc that explains a lot about who he is and how he became the man he is now and will soon be.
Clas is a truly scary man who, as an ex-mercenary, is more than capable of tracking down and killing his prey. Both Clas and Roger are predators of a dissimilar nature, but as the story evolves they merge to become the same type of killing machine.
My only disappointment with the book was that at 265 pages it was too short a read. Still entertaining and so fast paced it left me breathless, but, damn it could have been a little longer.
I will now have to watch the Norwegian film that was based on the book. Although, according to Wikipedia at any rate, the film does deviate somewhat from the novel. If ever a book had been written that screamed to be made into a film, Headhunters is that book.
I would definitely give the book a full five out of five stars. Full of fascinating characters and, once the books shifts into fifth gear midway, grips you fiercely until the end. Headhunters is just another winning “Scandi-crime” thriller from author Jo Nesbo.
- The Snowman by Jo Nesbo…Another Nordic Novelist (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- The Leopard by Jo Nesbo: Has Harry Gone Down the Hole? (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- Scandi-Crime? (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- Ex-Stockbroker Jo Nesbo Probes Murder, Mystery as Author – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Warner Bros Wins Auction For Jo Nesbo Novel ‘The Son’ (deadline.com)
- Sunday Salon – Why I Love Jo Nesbo (rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com)
- Headhunters (2011) (canadiancinephile.com)