#RivetingReviews: Barry Forshaw reviews THE ASSISTANT by Kjell Ola Dahl

A frequently reiterated question (as this writer can attest) is: ‘When will the Nordic Noir boom be over?’ The answer to that enquiry has to be nuanced – certainly, the kinetic excitement of the initial boom has waned considerably, but to the advantage of the genre: what is now published is among the best rather than simply being the latest product in newly translated Scandinavian crime writers. Which means, of course, that (hopefully) some of the most consistent and reliable writers may now be achieving the kind of coverage they always deserved. And of that coterie, the veteran Kjell Ola Dahl is fully deserving of the enthusiastic reviews he has only received fitfully in this country. The Assistant is a prime example of his work.

The novel addresses two time periods: 1920s Norway, and the same country in the late 1930s, when extreme forces of both left and right are in collision. His protagonist, Jack, the eponymous ‘assistant’, carries out jobs for a private detective – despite his involvement in prohibition-breaking in the past. The complex plot involves a variety of moral conflicts, all handled with rigour, and the novel boasts a particularly acute rendering of locale and period.

Genned-up admirers of Scandinavian crime fiction will notice that the book is translated by the nigh-legendary Don Bartlett, and his contribution is, as ever, sui generis.

Reviewed by Barry Forshaw

THE ASSISTANT

by Kjell Ola Dahl

translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

published by Orenda Books (2021)

June 2021 #RivetingReviews titles are available to buy from bookshop.org.


Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Euro Noir. Other work: Nordic Noir, Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk).

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Category: June 2021Reviews

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