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Headhunters    by Jo Nesbo Amazon.com order for
Headhunters
by Jo NesbÝ
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Headhunters (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett) is an early work by Jo NesbÝ, author of the superlative Harry Hole police procedural series, set in Norway. Now a major motion picture from Magnolia Pictures (which should work very well, given the strong visual elements in the plot), Headhunters is very different in many ways from the Harry Hole stories. However it is just as intricately plotted, and as filled with misdirection and characters shaded in gray.

The antihero narrator is a slick character, not one who is easy to like, though his trials and tribulations generate some sympathy from the reader. Roger Brown is a highly successful corporate headhunter and an equally successful art thief, using his contacts from the former work to drive the latter heists. He's married to art gallery owner Diana, 'a beautiful soul in a beautiful body' yet rather a femme fatale, and is driven to give her the very wealthy lifestyle that he feels will keep her with him. He prides himself on his ability to apply 'the FBI's nine-step interrogation model ... a machine gun in the world of pea-shooters' to interviewing job candidates. Then he meets his match!

Diana introduces him to Clas Greve, who it seems is the perfect CEO candidate for a position that Roger is handling. Ex-Commando/counter-terrorist operative Clas executes the FBI model more skilfully than Roger does, and casually mentions his ownership of a priceless Rubens painting lost since World War II. Of course, when Roger goes after it, his troubles are only beginning - and they escalate fast and furiously in a violent romp across Norway, with Clas ('a heat-seeking missile that cannot be stopped') as the hunter and Roger the hunted. They leave a steady stream of corpses in their wake. The tension is only relieved by occasional comic moments, especially one involving an outhouse.

At first, Roger believes this is all about the theft and a love triangle, but he ultimately learns that there's a great deal more to it - his greatest challenge will be to find a way to survive to the end game. Though I didn't really care for Roger, or for any other character in the story for that matter, Headhunters is masterfully executed and a darned good read, not to be missed by mystery fans.

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