Norwegian author Jo Nesbø is known for his thrillers and detective series, but Headhunters (original title: Hodejegerne) is a standalone first published in 2008… It also has a movie adaptation that came out in 2011 and features a Scandinavian cast and is really worth watching (after reading the book) but, if that isn’t enough, the fact that one of the main characters is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (also known was Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones series) might help.
This book is about headhunter – Roger Brown who works at a recruitment agency and is known to be one of the best you can find. Unfortunately with his salary is not enough to give his gorgeous wife everything he feels obligated to give her, so he runs a parallel illegal business. His life turns around when he is introduced to Clas Greve – the perfect candidate for a job he is recruiting for at the moment, Greve indirectly helps him discover betrayal he never expected to happen and from hunter he becomes the hunted, he runs, trying to figure out the reasons for hunt and outsmart his opponents in order to survive.
Once the film came out in 2011, I saw it and was impressed, I’ve watched it only once, but still – now, I have some scenes burned in my memory, that will not be forgotten so easily. It did both good and bad for the reading…
Although the start of the book was slow, I did indeed knew that good times are coming and didn’t get discouraged, but tried to absorb as many details and facts the author would give. But the fact that I knew at least a little – what to expect did spoil the book slightly for me.
The story itself is really interesting, unusual and provides a lot of action and once the action starts, Headhunters become a page turner. At some points it is predictable and author has made sure to reveal all the details necessary to figure out all the mysteries in the story, which perhaps took away some of the charm, but I suppose – it still keeps you guessing because there’s no guarantee that you got everything right! But mysteries that you don’t manage to discover by yourself… there’s no mercy – Jo Nesbø just pours them over you and watches while your world burn.
Roger Brown is the main character and we get to know him pretty well as the author describes his relationships with all people in his life as well as in many flashbacks shows where and how Brown’s personality was affected or perhaps even made. It gives strong emotional background and reasoning for actions, but as the story is told from Brown’s point, not all the revelations were obvious since the first moment – while his character evolved, he got to know himself and change.
Sometimes the book left me wondering though, if author wasn’t telling the reasoning for some actions of the characters, because he thought it is obvious or because he expected the reader to be smart enough to figure it out.
I don’t even know, if I liked Roger. This is one of the books where you cannot relate to any of the characters – just because you live a completely different life, but the story is still interesting. My favourite character might be Clas Greve, although I was disappointed by the explanation we received at the end about his motivation for getting in touch with Roger. I hoped and expected something more, something better, because that hardly seemed a reason to deal will all the problems he dealt with. I disliked Diana and can’t even say why. I’m sorry, Diana.
And I have to admit that the fact that it happened in Scandinavia and I am familiar with shops like Narvesen or Rimi or basics of Scandinavian languages and fact that I have actually been in Oslo, Bergen, Odense (locations mentioned in the book) did make my reading a pleasant experience.
It’s hard to speak of writing as the book has been translated and it was originally printed in Norwegian, but the fact that sometimes passages or chapters seemed disconnected bothered me a bit. I didn’t feel like my journey was smooth, it had bumps in those awkward moments. I also have to admit that book had some problems with credibility because some of the things that happened in it seemed highly unlikely to ever happen and I think that was my biggest problem with this book. I tried to push it away in a deep corner, but didn’t really work.
But the ending, oh, the ending of the book. This is one of the books that tries to keep you on guard until you close the book and I really enjoyed that. Even the story that was told on television kept me guessing – what could be reasoning behind everything that happened? The Epilogue might have gone to the boring side and been too much for me, but I still have a really good impression of the book. And what seemed most important to me was that it actually didn’t frighten me. I was far from the life Roger had, far from the terror, but at the same time, it made me sympathize with his problems. I think it is a really good thing as usually when I am reading something scary, I am afraid to even go to toilet at night. This time it gave me a thriller, without making me even more neurotic than I appear right now, but giving me the full excitement of a thriller.
Headhunters contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing (strong, bloody violence) and scenes of a sexual nature which means that it is not really suitable for people with weak nerves as well as children. I would suggest adults who love thrillers to read this book and watch the film. This book received four stars out of five from me on my goodreads page. I was torn between three and four, but decided for the later, because it did make my heart pound and my body sweat.
The book was better because it gave a lot more emotions and backstory on all the characters that were missing in the film, because there just wasn’t enough time. So, I would recommend reading the book, if you decide for film over book.
Have you read the book? What did you think of Clas’ argumentation? How did you feel about Lotte? What of all the things that were revealed at the end did you guess? If you have seen the film, please share – what was your favourite or most memorable scene? (If you have seen, you will know, which stinky scene is never leaving my memory!) Let me know it all in the comment section bellow!