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Headhunters by Jo Nesbo
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Headhunters (original 2008; edition 2011)

by Jo Nesbo, Don Bartlett (Translator)

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1,010608,443 (3.45)44
Reason for Reading: I read every new book by this author!

This is Jo Nesbo's first standalone thriller and I have to say the publisher's summary does not do it justice. Headhunters in the title refers to Roger Brown's job as a corporate headhunter; someone who finds the perfect candidate for high position corporate jobs, such as CEO. Going into this book, knowing I loved Jo Nesbo as an author, I didn't really know what to expect about a story that the publisher's back summary told me was about art theft and the corporate business world. Two things not exactly up my alley. As I read, the opening hook caught me and I knew I'd have to finish the book just find out what that was all about! But as I read on the character of Roger Brown intrigued me and Nesbo had me, even though art theft was not my thing. I was missing the serial killer aspect of his Harry Hole books.

However, at a certain point in this extremely short (for Jo Nesbo) book the plot takes a certain twist and art theft almost is forgotten, as the theme becomes one of a man hunted, running for his life, finding he has no allays, and turning his intelligence to new matters as he tries to outwit a master. This part of the book is fantastic! It should make an incredibly suspenseful movie. Twist after twist keeps the reader on their toes and you never know how things will turn out in the end as both men must change their plans repeatedly. The book is dark and violent, yet humorous with it's black comedy and some of the grossest moments have a certain comedic air to them. A quote on the back of my book mentions "worthy of Quentin Torentino" and that is just exactly how I see this as well.

One thing I did not like was the ending, there is, of course, a final twist, which left me a little cold. I thought it was better if things had been left the way they were before this twist and would have preferred a different ending. But overall, an exhilarating novel which lets me know Nesbo can write anything. I've read his Harry Hole series, his children's Dr. Proctor trilogy and now this standalone thriller and will continue to read any book emblazoned with the words "by Jo Nesbo". A little research shows he has an anthology of short stories which has not been translated into English yet. This reader would look forward to the publication of that volume in the near future! ( )
  ElizaJane | Apr 19, 2012 |
English (47)  Norwegian (3)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-25 of 47 (next | show all)
With Headhunters, Jo Nesbø has crafted a funny, dark, and twisted caper story worthy of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers. FIRST TIME PUBLISHED IN THE U.S. NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE FROM MAGNOLIA PICTURES. 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. ( )
  icre8dstny | Jun 30, 2015 |
A first Nesbo book for me and while the plot is surprising the protagonist is unique which one would seldom find in fiction
Characters wise would prefer more development or explanations on how the protagonist became who he is
( )
  moonfleur | May 23, 2015 |
fiction, crime, Norway, kindle ( )
  chapeauchin | Nov 1, 2014 |
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 |
Synopsis/blurb......
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.
Overall?
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 |
I've read 3 of the Harry Hole series and really liked them. This is proof that the guy can really write. ( )
  bwkramer | Nov 19, 2013 |
"I had been thinking of putting a single bullet through your head as a mark of respect for being a prey worthy of a hunter, Roger. But I think I'll go back to the original plan after all. Shooting you in the stomach. Have I told you about the stomach shots? How the bullet bores through your spleen causing gastric acid to leak out and burn its way through the rest of the intestines? Then I have to wait until you beg me to kill you. And you will, Roger."

Fast paced. Couldn't put it down, Can't wait for the movie. Four stars. ( )
  richardcjennings | Nov 11, 2013 |
Nesbo takes a step away from his Harry Hole mysteries and gets into another equally interesting place, complete with his usual damaged characters living difficult lives, being not quite honest with themselves, wrapped up in what they deem to be their success stories, and overplaying their lives.

Headhunters also figure in more than one capacity. There are the egotistical headhunters who interview and recommend top level applicants for top level positions; there is a nod to the headhunters of the tropical rainforests through the auspices of "curacit," a deadly poison that is administered by a sharp prick by a needle embedded in a small curacit-filled grape-sized ball; there are the "great white hunters" of the corporate world who are looking for heads for their walls.

And, not to disappoint, Nesbo still manages to surprise me at the end. That's what I enjoy the most about Nesbo. He can always figure out how to turn the tables in the end and leave me with my jaw dropped, wondering how I missed that twist. ( )
  Hanneri | Oct 14, 2013 |
What was this all about? I am a fan of Nesbø but I found this book very disappointing. THe characters and the plot are completely unbelievable. I know that part of the appeal of the Harry Hole series is the false clues, the red herrings, but the ones in this book are just totally ridiculous. I don't even know why I finished it. I should have left it as soon as the military guy made his appearance and the alpha-male competition started. ( )
  femme_letale | Oct 6, 2013 |
A bit like Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, but not quite as complex or sophisticated. A good quick read. I suspect better read in Norweigan...
  PaulaCheg | Aug 12, 2013 |
Synopsis/blurb......
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.
Overall?
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 | Aug 7, 2013 |
Dark thriller with an ending I never suspected. ( )
  Liz_57 | Jul 26, 2013 |
disappointing to me. insert sad-face here.

i love jo nesbø. his harry hole novels are awesome escapist reading and books i turn to when i am in need of a brain cleanse from more serious reading.. but this novel just did nothing for me. it seemed predictable and plodding. so that is a shame. luckily i have many unread harry hole novels. so...YAY! ( )
  Booktrovert | Jul 5, 2013 |
Roger Brown is a "top of the heap" headhunter, meaning that every client he recommends for the job gets it. Clas Greve conspires for months to set up a chance meeting with Brown, knowing he has what it takes to land a job with one of Brown's clients, a company that will make him a very wealthy man. And so begins a story with plenty of Nesbo's trademark twists and turns, chase scenes, murders and intrique. The story line was not terribly believeable but I still enjoyed it. I kept thinking that Harry Hole would have been able to solve the crimes committed in The Headhunters in a jiff. ( )
  KatherineGregg | May 22, 2013 |
Not as gritty as his Harry Hole series, this Norwegian thriller had a bit of a slow start but once it got going, it became a pretty good thriller about a professional executive headhunter who supplements his income with art thefts. He may have bitten off more than he can chew on his latest heist though when he discovers the man he's stealing from is having an affair with his wife. When he decides not to recommend this man later as a suitable candidate for a job position he would be perfect for, he doesn't know that he has set off a chain of events that will result in the death of a friend and business partner, him assuming another identity, and voluntarily submerging himself at the bottom of a cabin's rustic toilet.

Things are not as they seem and the finale came as a total surprise. ( )
1 vote cameling | Apr 25, 2013 |
After a hiccup I thoroughly enjoyed Jo Nesbø’s [b:The Redbreast|465226|The Redbreast (Harry Hole, #3)|Jo Nesbø|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320540474s/465226.jpg|1487876] and bought the rest of the series before I’d even finished the first book. I haven’t actually gotten around to reading any of them yet because every time I reach for the second book in the series I see its 600 pages and decide to read something else. Something shorter. But a standalone novel is a whole different box of bananas and shorter than most of the Harry Hole novels so I was keen to read this one. Sadly for me it turned out not to be my cup of tea.

It is the story of Norwegian executive recruitment specialist Roger Brown (I never did discover how he ended up with such a thoroughly English name though concede this is probably my fault…my mind did wander on occasion) whose life spirals out of control in an increasingly gruesome way. Roger has a great job and a beautiful wife who he professes to adore but he feels he needs more money to fund his lifestyle so he has second job as an art thief. In a way, though not the way you might expect, it is this second job that gets him into trouble and sets up the main plot thread of the novel in which Roger matches wits with Clas Greve, a candidate for a top CEO job who ultimately becomes Roger’s arch enemy. The two play a game of cat and mouse across the Norwegian countryside and leave the landscape littered with bodies.

This book didn’t really tick any of the boxes on the list of things I look for in a good thriller and it had quite a few of the things that make me turn off (including scenes featuring poo). I found the characters flat and uninteresting which is probably the biggest problem I can have with a thriller. If characters are to be unlikeable I want them to be really unlikeable; the kind of people whose painful demise I guiltily yet eagerly anticipate. Here I just thought the two main characters were dull and I didn’t much care which of them lived, died or got the girl. The main woman was a non event; being defined only by her relationship to the men in the story and having a laughingly unbelievable relationship to her husband.

The story was a bit better than the characters but its cartoonish quality resulted in me not really being able to care about its many, increasingly implausible twists and I found myself picking apart relatively minor things like dodgy physics and technology. In a book I am enjoying I let that kind of thing was over me but here I wasn’t really engaged by the story and so the things stood out more (I can’t go into more detail without spoiling). Another thing which leapt out rather disconcertingly was the clunky product placements for brands of fridge, beer, furniture, clothing and so on. I go to some lengths to avoid being advertised at constantly so it really annoys me when it happens as part of a narrative. For me the ending to the book lost it half a star on my personal rating scale, seeming to lose the guts to be a tale of true noir right at the crucial moment and having a very clunky denouement.

I have something of a soft spot for high class thieves (blame my mother’s yen for Cary Grant which resulted in me watching To Catch a Thief dozens of times as a kid) so I was probably predisposed to liking this novel but it was not to be. To me it felt like a loosely connected series of vignettes in which bad stuff happened to not very nice people (and one poor dog) and not a lot in the way of thrills. As always alternative opinions are available and you shouldn’t just take my word for it. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This was up to the brilliant standard of the Harry Hole books in terms of excitement with the added extra of some laugh-out-loud moments. The ending was quite good though just a tad too pat, as evidenced by the media savvy but clueless detective. However the ending was also quite funny. Definitely one of the better Nordic thrillers as are the Harry Hole books. ( )
  jerhogan | Feb 25, 2013 |
I can see where this would make a great movie. Should have been directed by M. Night Shayamalan. ( )
  SomeGuyInVirginia | Feb 1, 2013 |
Very pleasantly impressed. Reminiscent of a nordic Don Winslow with a little more substance. THe set-up is terrific and very convincing. I am a sucker for book's that involve art heists, although, the art heist in this novel is a Maguffin of sorts. Roger Brown, the main character, has a authentic and convincing voice. The action is a bit over-the-top, the Quentin Tarantino references are well-arned. ALthough there are several laugh out-loud sections; the book does loose some of its credibility. Ultimately, I think the book may have been stronger relying on the real emotions that were created early on. I found the epilogue to strain believability even within the books own constructs. I have not yet read any of the Harry Hole books, overall, I did enjoy this stand alone. ( )
  RDHawk6886 | Jan 30, 2013 |
Wasn't sure at first but took off nicely part way through. Interesting read, unexpected twists, and an unusual role for the central character. I'll read more. ( )
  martinhughharvey | Dec 20, 2012 |
The English translation of this book, "Headhunters", has been on the bestseller-lists in the UK for quite a while. Also, I wanted to read this book before watching the film of it. However, having read Nesbø before, and not quite liking it, I was a little sceptical. Fortunately I liked Hodejegerne better, perhaps partly because it doesn't include Harry Hole, the recurring character in quite a few of the other books, and a character I never quite liked. Hodejegerne is very original, both in its story, and in the way the story unfolds. The thing that bothered me throughout the book was the fact that I just didn't believe a lot of what was happening. At some point almost all of the main characters make choices which seem more than a little contrived. Still, this is a quick, rather fast-paced, sometimes genuinely thrilling, book. Worth a read. ( )
  clq | Jul 16, 2012 |
Namiesto Harry Holleho (Nesbovej viackniznej postavy) prichádza Roger Brown. Zo začiatku sebavedomý, neskôr štvaný, ale stále osobnoť. Občas sa so svojím prístupom opakuje, občas zmätkuje. Nie je dokonalý, ale vie nedokonalosť vypozorovať. To možno stačí. Možno. ( )
  .dan | Jul 12, 2012 |
What a well-choreographed dance of duplicity, malice and mistrust, with Machiavellian overtones. It read like a screen-play, which means the recently released movie based on the book must be pretty good. The movie probably will never get to Charleston, but hopefully will hit our radar at some point. The main character is despicable and unlikeable, yet I found myself sort of rooting for him, since everyone else was worse. I'd never have made it in the high-power business world.

It's only looking at the cover on book sites that I realize the white on read forms a primitive face, complete with canines, which is apt, given part of the story. The book has one of the best toilet scenes I've ever read, and I'm pleased to say I caught one of the major plot elements because it had just a touch of a character similarity to something in the Harry Hole books (and made me wonder if Jo Nesbø had personal experience with something, to have put it in both this book and the Hole series.)

We picked up this book at the Stanford Book Store while there for our son's graduation(!!). ( )
  bookczuk | Jun 23, 2012 |
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