138 of 148 people found the following review helpful
The word "headhunter" might conjure up images of violent death. But Roger Brown, the lead headhunter in Jo Nesbo's book, works for an Oslo employment agency that recommends candidates for top management positions. Big money is at stake. If a company hires someone Roger recommends, Roger gets a huge commission. Roger is highly skilled and shares his technique as he narrates the story.
Roger's wife, Diana, is beautiful and very demanding. She runs an art gallery that is losing money. Roger needs to supplement his headhunting pay. No, he does not start working on the side in a fast food joint. As we learn early on, he steals expensive works of art.
So, we have an intriguing storyline. We have excellent writing. Much of the writing is as good as it gets, strengthened by Nesbo's keen knowledge of human nature and sharp sense of humor. We come to know quite well Roger, Diana, and several other key characters.
The novel is full of surprises. Surprises about Diana. Turns out she has a very dangerous friend. At one point Roger finds himself in great peril. He has only seconds to hide. He hides in a most unusual place. Nesbo's description of this incident is, in my opinion, unforgettable. Sorry, no more clues.
It's all very clever indeed. This is the fifth gem by Nesbo that I have read and reviewed for this site. The only flaw I can find in this particular gem is that Nesbo may be a bit too clever sometimes, particularly as the conclusion approached. He nearly writes himself into a corner. Hopefully, you'll see exactly what I mean if you read this book.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo's latest novel is a stand-alone, not part of his Harry Hole series, and it provides yet another example of Nesbo's immense talent as a story-teller. Nesbo never "writes the same book twice." Even the five Harry Hole novels currently available in the U.S. are very different from each other. In this novel, Nesbo lets his darkest, most deadpan humor loose in a wild but beautifully constructed mystery in which the organization of the novel parallels textbook recommendations regarding interviewing and hiring candidates for executive positions - seemingly a straightforward process. Nesbo turns it all on its head, however. His "headhunter," Roger Brown is a loathsome human being, but he is as close to a "hero" as one gets in this page-turner. His powerful enemies are at least as clever, opportunistic, and amoral as he is.
By focusing on these characters, however, Nesbo frees himself from the limitations of the police procedural and can take his story in new directions, omitting the law entirely from almost all of the action, and creating a plot in which Roger Brown and his enemies play a game in which the "king of the chessboard" is the person who survives. Roger Brown has a side business, set up so cleverly that none of the other participants know who else is involved, a business which handsomely supplements his business income. As he interviews clients, Roger gains important personal information, including their artistic tastes and the nature of their investments in art. Then he cleverly arranges to have that artwork stolen from their homes and fenced. No one ever suspects him.
When he interviews a Dutch candidate for a major position in a corporation that makes sophisticated GPS devices, including some so tiny that they can be hidden in gels, he discovers that Clas Greve is his job candidate from hell, pushing back and eventually seizing the initiative. Soon every aspect of Roger's life is threatened, and no holds are barred. To go into much more detail would risk giving spoilers, but Nesbo is at his outrageous best here, allowing himself free rein to create a taut mystery with darkly hilarious complications which never stop coming, and coming, and coming. Creative killings and near misses inspire the reader to keep trying to figure out who is involved and how, but as soon as one "knows" how some betrayal took place, Nesbo twists the plot to show that the reader is wrong - yet again.
Adding to the pure fun and zany excitement are scenes which also evoke the reader's sympathies. Talented young executive Jeremias Lander, whose interview opens the novel, is manipulated by Roger Brown, illustrating some of the techniques headhunters use to guarantee that their candidates are ready for the jobs they want, even if they have to wait a while to get them. Roger's wife Diana, who once had an abortion that she didn't want, evokes sympathy as she deals constantly with the emotional aftereffects. Lotte, a "timid whelp, small and scruffy with fearful, brown puppy eyes," is used and discarded. Still, Nesbo's focus remains primarily on the plot and its twists, and his deadpan descriptions of outrageous (and truly unforgettable) scenes will keep readers smirking throughout, even as they are saying "E-e-w-w-w."
Note: All the proceeds from this novel will go to the Harry Hole Foundation, promoting literacy in the Third World. Already sold and developed as a film, this is the first Nesbo novel to hit the screen.
Nemesis: A Novel (Harry Hole)
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Any doubt that Norway's Jo Nesbo is at the top of Scadinavian crime writers is put to rest with "Headhunters," an unusual bit of noir that starts campy - one begins to wonder where Nesbo is headed here - but finishes dark and gritty; a mystery of murder and violence with twists worthy of Hitchcock.
Setting aside Oslo homicide inspector Harry Hole and opting for a stand alone novel, in "Headhunters," Nesbo tells the story of Roger Brown, a self-centered, mildly obnoxious executive recruiter who is nonetheless at the top of his field of executive recruiting. Marrying over-his-head to a model-quality wife with an art gallery and a talent for spending money, the financially strapped Brown runs an art theft racket on the side to support their lavish lifestyle. When Brown is introduced to former special ops warrior Clas Greve, the perfect CEO candidate for a high profile technology corporation, a seemingly straightforward assignment spirals into a bloody page-turner packed with murder, intrigue, deceit and surprise.
Nesbo is the real deal. "Headhunters" is characteristic of lean plotting and enough atmospheric to set the tone - but not distract from the action. The premise is fresh; the absence of cops or private investigators refreshing. And as always, Nesbo paints a vivid cast; the oily Brown, his Barbie wife, the formidable Greve, and Ove Kjikerud, head of security and partner-in-crime for Brown's art thieving. If you haven't discovered Jo Nesbo yet - especially if you're bemoaning the passing of Stieg Larsson - now is the time to get acquainted.
50 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2011
I have read all the other Jo Nesbo books that are available in English and thoroughly enjoyed them. The protagonist in the others I have read by this author is Harry Hole, a brilliant, difficult, yet highly sympathetic character. I thought the plot here was quite clever, but I did not sympathize with the main character. Of course there are many examples of great literature with unsympathetic characters, such as Hamlet, but the author does not give the reader any reason to care what happens to the protagonist. I may be spoiled, because the other books by this author are so good that I could not wait to read this one.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
For some reason, this book reminded me of Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley" series. Nesbo has taken a deeply unsympathetic and amoral hero and makes the reader root for him, possibly because he finds himself up against an even less sympathetic opponent.
Roger Brown is the king of headhunters. He recruits CEOs and his recommendations are always accepted by the client. Roger is married to the beauteous Diana whom he thinks is a little out of his league. He augments his income by stealing works of art from his clients. He refuses her wish to have a child because he doesn't want to share her with a baby.
Roger holds his life together somehow until he comes up against CEO candidate Clas Greve, a ruthless psychopath with special forces training and a sadistic streak a mile wide who is in search of a top job and possibly looking to steal Roger's wife too.
There ensues a breathless hunt -- and then the hunted becomes the hunter. Roger endures more than any human ought to be able to and still keep his sanity. I won't go into detail -- for fear of deterring any innocent readers. There are double-crosses and triple-crosses and many surprises until we get to a thrilling climax. One even accepts some of the author's weirder technological inventions as part of the fun.
It takes a while to get into this book but it's worth the effort.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
After reading all 5 of the Harry Hole books available in English and elevating Jo Nesbo to my current favorite author, I was eager to read Headhunters and waited impatiently for its availability on Kindle. Simply stated, I was very disappointed in this book and surprised that I actually finished it, but I guess I kept hoping for more. The plot is interesting and I find Nesbo has a real talent for weaving plots, but the characters are tedious. Some passages were gross, trashy and disgusting and I glossed over them. Guess you can't always hit a home run.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
Having read all the Harry Hole novels, I approached "Headhunters" with some trepidation. The blurbs seemed to take Nesbo out an environment in which he had been fairly comfortable in the Hole series. I read the opening chapters and wondered about the slickness and smugness of it all. As this book got gorier and more twisted, I wondered if Nesbo had written a sick prank to punk the readers. Perseverance not admiration got me through the book, and I would not it recommend to anyone. I hope this was a one-time aberration on Nesbo's part because I have enjoyed the Hole books immensely. A disappointing waste of time as there are too many good Nordic mystery writers to choose from: Hakan Nesser, Helene Tursten, Jussi Adler Olsen, Leif G W Persson, Ake Edwardsson, or Camilla Lackberg, just to name a few.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2011
Having not read any of the Harry Hole series I had nothing to compare HEADHUNTERS with but I thought it was an excellent and entertaining read. The main character is head-hunter, in the business sense, Roger Brown, whose commission based income is not enough to supplement the failing art gallery of Diana, his glamorous/high-maintenance wife. Roger takes to stealing expensive pieces of art to fill the void, as you do, and gets in too deep when he plans his latest and most daring burglary.
The writing is slick and fast-paced and there were enough twists thrown in to keep me on my toes and just when I thought that I had worked out an implausible ending it took a new direction. A great book and after reading other reviews I will definitely be trying the Hole series to see if it really is better than this!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Roger Brown is Norway's top executive recruiter, who places candidates in the most prestigious jobs and earns a substantial commission in the process. However for Roger this income isn't enough, so he's also involved in art theft on the side - using his job interviews as an opportunity to find out if candidates have anything worth stealing.
When he meets Clas Greve, the perfect candidate for CEO of a GPS technologies company, he is delighted at the opportunity to get one over his competitors. When he discovers that Greve is also the owner of an incredibly valuable painting, it seems almost too good to be true. And indeed, he will swiftly learn that for once, he has well and truly met his match.
This is a VERY fast paced thriller (the synopsis above covers only about the first quarter of the book), which is highly readable but also almost cartoon-like in both its pace and its total absence of credibility. There's nothing even remotely believable here, but if you're happy to suspend belief, at least you won't be bored and I can guarantee that you won't see all the twists coming. Ultimately it was all a bit too silly and forgettable for my taste, but it's a perfect airplane novel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2011
As one reviewer wrote here, one does not necessarily sympathize with the progagonist as one does with Joe Nesbo's serial hero, Harry Hole. Having said that, I loved this book. And let's face it, on the one hand Harry Hole is easy to sympathize with, and on the other hand, he's easy to despise. And your reading of him usually walks a very muddy line between. Roger Brown of Headhunters, on the other hand, simply has no real traits which one would generally sympathize with. But he does have what I think some would call boyish charm. And for a story which uses a patina of frivolity against a backdrop of fear to create its mood, this works very well. You are led along on what seems like a lark to a sudden series of affronts. Nesbo has managed this skillfully and he continues to make you chuckle even when you're thinking, "oh, god, how could you?"
Fun stuff. Ok, Joe, now we need your next Harry Hole book.