We all think of saying something to some people but we will never find the courage to do so. It may be an insult, an apology or just a confession of love. If you are a person who reads a lot, you are likely to pen them down in a paper in hope of giving it to the concerned person, some day. Blood on Snow is a novel about one such person. The problem is he is a paid assassin and deep in his heart he knows that his letters will never be read, without people judging him.
I am a great fan of Jo Nesbo. I really am. If you are a follower of this blog, you may know that I am a sucker of Nordic/Scandinavian thrillers. But this book is not a thriller. This book is just what the title says it is. It is just blood on pure white snow. The book is a long short story. It has less gore compared to the author’s previous novel “The Son”. But the lead character “Olav” has so much of depth in it than the protagonist of “The Son”. I liked the novel simply for that reason.
Jo Nesbo’s writing technique always fascinates me. There is never a dull moment. Olav goes on to describe himself to us as he carries on what he is best at. Killing. And he makes no attempt to hide his short comings. He cannot do math, so he cannot deal drugs. He cannot drive without looking suspicious, so he cannot be a getaway driver. He cannot see people suffer, so he cannot become a pimp. So he decides to back himself up with his strength, which is killing.
Like everybody, he is forced to deal with his weaknesses and he pays the price. What makes this book special than Harry Hole Novels and other stand alone novels of Jo Nesbo is, it is hard to connect with Olav. He is like Blues music to a traditional Indian Bollywood listener. We cant quite get a hang of it. In fact, nobody in the novel understands this person barring one person. But then it is too late. But when you get a hang of what goes on in his mind and why he is thinking the way he thinks, he is hard to let go. Particularly the last chapter tore me into pieces. I am not the one to become emotional easily, let me add.
He is in an abyss and he does things because he was instructed to and then he does things because of the complications that arise from his actions. The basic human need is to survive and to be loved. He doesn’t slip from that. In spite of being a fixer, he is so broke. He spends all his money for the family of his victims and other humanitarian purposes. This makes us empathize with the choices he make. And sadly, his end is because of the choices others make.
There is gore. There is a scene where a person shoot with a shot gun which had its barrel sawed off. The bullet hits the victim and his face is torn into two pieces. Just before that a girl gets caught in the cross fire and her neck is shot and she lays there for several minutes blood pumping out of her neck. I am just giving you the points, if you have a weak stomach, the narration may make you throw up what you had for meal. There are more such scenes but relatively, this novel has less violence than Jo Nesbo novels.
Amidst all the killings and blood, there is a melody going on in Olav’s mind, which makes us feel comfortable while travelling with him. In one of the scenes where he is waiting in a coffin to kill a person his thought process goes like this,
And there wasn’t a single logical reason in the world why that shouldn’t happen right then. But it still felt as if there was a right moment, one particular second squeezed in between all the other seconds. … Like in a book, when an author decides precisely when something will happen, something you know is going to happen, because the author has already said it’s going to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Because there’s a proper place in a story, so you have to wait a bit, so that things can happen in the right order. I closed my eyes and felt the clock count down, a spring tensing, a drop still clinging to the point of an icicle.
And then the moment arrived.
It is not a great novel but it is one of the better novels that came out this year.
Recommended for a short read. If you had read Les Miserables, then you will enjoy this even more.