The assistant

Kjell Ola Dahl, 1958-

Book - 2021

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler's Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there's a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy. When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant - his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers - begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity. But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused o...f murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past ... and an extraordinary secret.

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Detective and mystery stories
Detective and mystery fiction
London, England : Orenda Books 2021.
Item Description
Originally published in Norwegian: Aschehoug, 2020.
Physical Description
293 pages ; 20 cm
Main Author
Kjell Ola Dahl, 1958- (author)
Other Authors
Don Bartlett (translator)
Review by Booklist Review

In Oslo in 1938, Jack Rivers attempts to leave his smuggling past behind and joins former police detective Ludvig Paaske's private-investigation firm. When wealthy housewife Vera Gruber hires Paaske to investigate her husband's possible infidelity, Rivers and Paaske's personal history becomes tangled with Gestapo spies, blackmailers, and murder. While surveilling Gruber's husband, Jack recognizes Vera Gruber as his dangerous old flame, Amalie, and discovers that the man they've been following isn't her husband. Amalie, in league with a notorious Gestapo agent, Werner Krause, has hired them to track a German dissident. She promises to explain, but when Jack shows up for their meeting, he finds a body and is marked as the prime suspect. While Jack goes underground, Paaske works to clear him until a run-in with a figure from his own past makes him the ultimate instrument of betrayal. The fallout from long-buried passion and manipulation collides with prewar espionage to create a complex mix of motives here; Dahl deftly controls the narrative, wielding irony to create bittersweet noir tension.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This atmospheric, intricately plotted standalone from Dahl (the Oslo Detectives series) cuts between Kristiana (the old name for Oslo) in 1924 and Oslo in 1938. In 1924 Kristiana, Jack Rivers ferries bootlegged liquor for smuggler Arvid Bjerke, who's having an affair with a flirtatious, opportunistic woman named Amalie Iversen. Policeman Ludvig Paaske arrests Jack. Fast forward to 1938. Paaske, now a private investigator, is hired by a German, Vera Gruber, to find out whether her husband, Bernhard, is cheating on her--and Jack, surprisingly, is working for Paaske as the assistant of the title. Jack tails Bernhard and discovers that Vera is actually Amalie, who isn't connected to Bernhard at all but is in league with German military officers. When Jack confronts Vera/Amaie, she drops the case, but he realizes that a lot more is going on than mere infidelity. The tension grows as Nazi Germany's presence in Oslo becomes more palpable and sinister. Jack's arrest for murder raises the stakes. Dahl does a good job depicting Norway's experience of the run-up to WWII, but the overly long backstory slows the pace. Fans of historical suspense who prefer nuance to action will be rewarded. (Oct.)

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