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Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Headhunters (original 2008; edition 2011)

by Jo Nesbo (Author), Don Bartlett (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
914619,616 (3.46)32
Authors:Jo Nesbo (Author)
Other authors:Don Bartlett (Translator)
Collections:Read but unowned, Review Copies
Tags:arc, randomhouse, crime, thriller, psychological suspense, art theft, read2012

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Headhunters by Jo Nesbo (2008)


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English (47)  Norwegian (3)  French (2)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
If only there were ten starts. This is the book to end all books! I just can't throw around enough clichés.
When I read THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, I thought there'd never be another book as good. Then I read THE GODFATHER. And now, nine years later, I read HEADHUNTERS.
I had taken to skipping over the end of books, if not dropping them mid-book altogether, once the crime was resolved. But this one, the writing kept me going. I wonder if another Jo Nesbo can even keep up! This was my first. ( )
  bookscentlover | Sep 25, 2014 |
This was good, really good, but I have grown to expect so much from Nesbo. The main character, Roger Brown, really reminded me of Brett Easton Ellis's Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He was observant, meticulous, thought that the world was his oyster, and oh yeah, anal. Even though he was all of these things, I still grew to like him. ( )
  ChewDigest | Sep 12, 2014 |
This was good, really good, but I have grown to expect so much from Nesbo. The main character, Roger Brown, really reminded me of Brett Easton Ellis's Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He was observant, meticulous, thought that the world was his oyster, and oh yeah, anal. Even though he was all of these things, I still grew to like him. ( )
  ChewDigest | Sep 12, 2014 |
a) This is a review of the film, not the book. b) It contains fuckloads of spoilers. Bad films can be fun, but this, whilst watching it, was the wrong kind of bad, although it's somehow more fun to remember. (Just remembering the highlights, probably.) There were few laughs until about half way through. At least I enjoyed spotting cast members from Lilyhammer - same as recognising Danish supporting actors in films after The Killing and Borgen.

The set-up of Headhunters is a beta versus alpha male pursuit / vendetta - later revealed to be [a pointlessly wacko way of doing] industrial espionage. Roger Brown - typically Norwegian name there, but presumably his parents were British, handily for international sales - is a corporate headhunter with a Napoleon complex. He's short, weedy, red-haired and knowingly tries to make up for his sense of inferiority by exercising power over high-flying executives, having a huge house he can't afford and a supermodel-esque wife he's constantly scared of losing. Oh, and by indulging in a bit of art theft, to help pay for the mortgage and gifts for the wife. As a protagonist he's a hard sell: he's cold, socially manipulative, not particularly attractive, and he's already got a lot of what mr. average viewer who feels 'beta' would probably like in life. There's no sense of art or irony in any of the characterisation. Telling the story from his viewpoint helps elicit some sympathy. But it's hard not to see the easiest solution as being to stop stealing stuff and wait a few months until he comes to the full realisation he needs to get a divorce and sell the house.

At the opening of an exhibition, Brown meets Claes Greve, a suave, square-jawed 6ft+ half-Dane half-Dutchman who's recently taken early retirement in his mid-30s after selling his GPS company to Americans. Greve owns an illicit Rubens, missing since the Second World War; his grandmother had been given the picture by a German soldier she slept with. Obviously Brown decides to nick this rare treasure with the assistance of his henchman, whom he'd placed at a private security and alarm company. (Strangely enough, everyone he decides to steal from turns out to have their alarm with this company.)

Brown find his wife's phone in Greve's empty bed and vows that Greve will never get a job in Norway. Thereafter a bizarre and macguffinish cross-country manhunt of Brown by Greve ensues, including a number of guns, dead bodies, car crashes, the obligatory Nordic-thriller scenes in country cabins, and miscellaneous extreme survival situations. (It has that background sense that it's who you are in those situations that really counts, something I admit I've carried around with me as long as I can remember, even though with this health, no amount of willpower and effort could make me as hard as Sarah Connor.)

The most absurd stupid-action-movie scene in the whole thing is when Brown, now brown because he's literally covered in shit after hiding in a cesspit, has been mauled by Greve's mastiff, impales said mastiff on a rusty forklift in a barn in self defence, then steals the forklift, and goes rumbling and creaking along the night-time road away from his pursuer, still with the dead dog attached. Those who can't help thinking about things like septicaemia may be relieved to know that soon afterwards he gets medical attention before continuing his adventures, the filmmakers not having abandoned logic in every single area. Although re. how many car crash scenes feature a razor which a survivor could use to shave his head, I am rather sceptical.

I looked at some other opinions on Headhunters the film after writing this and was surprised how well it was regarded. I don't watch a lot of recent films, but can accept that it probably is better than many for relying on real, just about possible, stunts rather than on CGI and shakycam. By comparison with films 30+ years its senior though (my usual yardstick - though admittedly man of those are modern classics) it was absurd because the characters' motivations were barely existent to flimsy.

In the end, the whole business functions to transform Brown not into a paranoid, injured wreck, but a warmer, more confident and less materialistic chap who's happy with his height and loved by his glamorous wife. A paintballing weekend would have been less hassle though. And less cheesy. Apparently the story is supposed to comment on corporate ethics, but even the average episode of The Brittas Empire did that better. ( )
  antonomasia | Sep 11, 2014 |
Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.
With the month fast disappearing and not having got my Scandinavian crime fiction fix yet, I was, after an exchange of views with Keishon from Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog tempted into giving this standalone book by Nesbo a spin. Nesbo’s adult books tend to deal with his main character Harry Hole in a series of police procedurals, with Headhunters being his sole venture away from Hole. My first experience of the author was earlier this year when The Bat, his debut novel was finally released in English for the first time. As the second Hole adventure doesn’t appear until towards the end of this year, my OCD tendencies steered me away from later books in the series, that have long been available in the UK.
Well, how did we get on with Headhunters?
At 380-odd pages long and only taking maybe 2 or 3 working days to read, it was fast and using the old cliché – a bit of a page-turner.
What was our overall assessment? Enjoyable, interesting, one to recommend?
Hmm.... I would have to say I enjoyed it, without actually being able to gush or enthuse about it dramatically. Would I recommend it.........I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it, but conversely it’s not a book that I will be forcing on to other people either. A bit of a fence-sitting here.
What was the problem then?
Whilst the plot and premise of the book interested me to a degree, my main problem was that Roger Brown wasn’t particularly likeable. There’s a thin line between characters that exude self-confidence and have an appeal that has you rooting for them and characters that emit arrogance and leave you indifferent to their fate. Brown/Nesbo crossed the line, whether Nesbo intentionally portrayed Brown in this unflattering way would be interesting to know. His combatant in Headhunters, Clas Greve instead of contrasting with Brown was of the same ilk, gaining his super-ego from having previously excelled whilst in the Dutch military.
The plot was a little bit far-fetched, but as all fiction is made up words, I was ok suspending belief for the duration of the story. Nesbo introduced a twist towards the end, that whilst not quite telegraphed had a certain predictability about it. I was a little bit confused at the switch around, but not enough to force myself to re-cap and reread maybe the previous 10 or so pages to see if it was totally plausible or to perhaps pick-up on a small hint I may have missed.
The characters I liked most in the book were several of the supporting cast. One whose name escapes me was Brown’s partner in crime. I found myself somewhat sympathetic to him, particularly as he was so hopelessly love-struck, though I’m not sure his paranoid tendencies would have earmarked him as ideal boyfriend material. The second character I enjoyed was Ferdy, Brown’s underling in the workplace. Had both Brown and Greve exploded from a dangerous overload of testosterone, I would happily have watched Ferdy sail in to take the spoils.
I’ll go a 3 from 5. There wasn’t enough about it to merit a 4 or drag it above the barrier of averagely-interestingly- enjoyable. It was better than a 2, insofar as I was never mired in treacle reading it or ever felt like stopping at any point.
I’m unsure where I picked up my copy from. It would have been late last year or early this year, second hand either via Amazon, E-bay or as a book swap.
I haven’t been put off reading more from Nesbo, but as stated before will be holding off until I get my hands on Cockroach.
As a further note, I believe there has been a film adaptation of the book. I haven't been compelled to find out more about it, or hunt it down.
( )
  col2910 | Apr 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
If you thought Scandinavian crime fiction couldn’t get better than Steig Larson and Henning Mankell, you’re wrong.. Norway’s Jo Nesbo is better than either and this book is far and away his finest. Already a best-selling film in Europe and just sold for a U.S. version, Headhunters is smart, skillful, perfectly cast and full of twists that will keep you spinning.

Nesbo has given his stalwart Oslo cop Harry Hole a rest. The headhunter is Roger Brown, the most successful in Norway. Everyone vies for his skills and pays plenty. But Roger is living way beyond his considerable means. One problem is his gorgeous and expensive wife, Diana. But not to worry, dear. Roger’s profession takes him into the mansions of the richest and most cultivated, so he has a second income. He’s an accomplished art thief.

Then comes his golden opportunity. He learns of the location of a priceless painting by Rubens, stolen by the Germans, and currently on the wall of one of his clients. But when he arrives to steal the painting, he discovers there’s far more happening with his darling wife than he suspected. When his partner in crime is murdered, Roger knows that he’s in someone’s crosshairs. There’s a hunter on the trail of the headhunter and Roger is going to need all his wit and speed to save his own skin.

Smart dialogue, intricate plotting, brilliantly conceived characters, perfect pacing. This novel should put Nesbo at the top of any reader’s must-have list.
added by VivienneR | editThe Globe and Mail, Canada, Margaret Cannon (Oct 12, 2011)

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Nesboprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartlett, DonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Kahden ajoneuvon yhteentörmäyksessä on kyse yksinkertaisesta fysiikasta.
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Original title: Hodejegerne.

This is not part of the Harry Hole series.
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Roger Brown is a headhunter and art thief living beyond his means and when he meets Clas Greve, a corporate candidate who reveals that he owns a priceless Rubens painting, Roger breaks into his apartment, initiating a series of events which puts Roger's life in danger.… (more)

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