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Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun

4.0 3
by Jo Nesbo

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Ulf has one small problem—his former boss, Oslo's most notorious drug kingpin, wants him dead.

He was once the kingpin's fixer, but after betraying him, Ulf is now the one his former boss wants fixed. Hiding out at the end of the line in northern Norway, Ulf lives among the locals. A mother and son befriend him, and their companionship stirs


Ulf has one small problem—his former boss, Oslo's most notorious drug kingpin, wants him dead.

He was once the kingpin's fixer, but after betraying him, Ulf is now the one his former boss wants fixed. Hiding out at the end of the line in northern Norway, Ulf lives among the locals. A mother and son befriend him, and their companionship stirs something deep in him that he thought was long dead. As he awaits the inevitable arrival of his murderous pursuers, he questions if redemption is at all possible or if, as he's always believed, “hope is a real bastard.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This forcefully written story of personal defeat, despair, and salvation sends a man off to lose himself in the wilderness—where he finds himself instead." —The New York Times Book Review

"Readers who like their crime fiction cut-to-the-bone lean will love the opening pages of Jo Nesbø's new, swift-moving existential thriller. . . . A compelling exploration of love, faith, the meaning of life and redemption." —Richmond Times-Dispatch

"A fun read, with a likable protagonist and a brisk, page-turning pace. Nesbø is a talented storyteller and his narrative intuition is on full display." —Los Angeles Times
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
…this forcefully written story of personal defeat, despair and salvation…sends a man off to lose himself in the wilderness—where he finds himself instead.
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/21/2015
Jon, the narrator of this excellent standalone from Edgar-finalist Nesbø, is a “fixer,” or hit man, akin to the hero of 2015’s Blood on Snow. Jon, who has done jobs for an Oslo crime boss known as the Fisherman, has fled the city for Kåsund, a tiny village in the far north populated by Sami (Lapps) and dominated by a very strict religious ethos. Taking refuge in a church, he tells the townspeople he meets that his name is Ulf. A stranger in a strange land, Ulf slowly reveals what led him to leave Oslo: a failed hit and a theft that has Johnny Moe, the Fisherman’s henchman, after him. Ulf is a bad boy with a heart of gold; he got into trouble because he was trying to help someone close to him. His self-mocking deprecations are endearing: “Not that I’m an irresponsible or careless person; I’ve just got really bad judgment.” Immaculately plotted and perfectly paced, the book is also darkly funny and deadly serious. Scandinavian gloom notwithstanding, it has a neatly satisfying and surprisingly moving ending. Agent: Niclas Salomonsson, Salomonsson Agency (Sweden). (Feb.)
Library Journal
Nesbø quickly follows up his stand-alone novel Blood on Snow with a second short book in this new series. Jon is on the run from his boss, a powerful crime lord called the Fisherman, not only because he faked killing a man who stole from the Fisherman but also, albeit for an altruistic purpose, he took the money the supposed dead man had stolen. Now calling himself Ulf, Jon flees north to Norway's isolated and underpopulated Arctic Circle, where time seems to have stopped. Desperate for a place to hide, he accepts help from the quirky citizens, first from a nine-year-old boy and his mother, then a local shopkeeper. In perpetual fear of being caught by the Fisherman's henchmen, Ulf soon worries about the lives of those who are aiding him. VERDICT Nesbø delivers a tale of hope and redemption in this brief story of a man who blunders into a life of crime and then tries to extricate himself with a minimum of damage to those around him. Although this is unlike the author's gritty "Harry Hole" stories, it is wholeheartedly recommended for Nesbø fans and readers who enjoy strong character development. [See Prepub Alert, 8/17/15.]—Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Kirkus Reviews
The world's worst hit man goes aground in a little Norwegian town far above the Arctic Circle in this sharp, spare, postcard-sized tale. Entry-level drug dealer Jon Hansen never wanted to kill anybody—his trigger finger refuses to do the job every time he's called on to shoot—and that's probably why he never did. Even though his shadowy boss, the Fisherman, the drug king of Norway, knows he killed Toralf Jonsen over an unpaid debt, the big boss is wrong; Jon only loaned his childhood friend the gun he ended up using to shoot himself. So when the Fisherman, who was also Toralf's employer, asks Jon to kill Gustavo King, another underling who owes him big-time, he's taking more of a chance than he thinks. Jon can't shoot Gustavo, and he's relieved when Gustavo offers to pay him and disappear. Things can't possibly go as smoothly as that, of course, and they don't. The Fisherman gets wind of his quarry's escape and sends Jon's replacement, the far more capable assassin Johnny Moe, first after Gustavo, then after Jon. Will Jon be able to stay hidden in the tiny hunting cabin he's occupied outside the hamlet of Kåsund, which is so intimate that even 10-year-old Knut Sara knows he's a rotten shot? And if Johnny tracks him down to his frigid lair, will the locals who've come to know him—especially Knut's mother, recently widowed Lea Sara, and her father, a stern evangelical pastor, come together to protect him more successfully than he protected Gustavo? Wasting not a word, Nesbø (Blood on Snow, 2015, etc.) paints an indelible portrait of a criminal loser who reflects when he's faced with the supreme threat to his existence that "it was actually hard to think of anyone who was more dispensable than me."

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


How are we to start this story? I wish I could say that we’ll start at the beginning. But I don’t know where it starts. Just like everyone else, I’m not truly aware of the real sequence of cause and effect in my life.

Does the story start when I realised that I was only the fourth-best soccer player in the class? When Basse, my grandfather, showed me the drawings—his own drawings—of La Sagrada Família? When I took my first drag on a cigarette and heard my first track by the Grateful Dead? When I read Kant at university and thought I understood it? When I sold my first lump of hash? Or did it start when I kissed Bobby—who’s actually a girl—or the first time I saw the tiny, wrinkled creature who would end up being called Anna screaming up at me? Perhaps it was when I was sitting in the Fisherman’s stinking back room and he was telling me what he wanted me to do. I don’t know. We store up all sorts of stories with fabricated logic, so that life can look as though it has some meaning.

So I may as well start here, in the midst of the confusion, at a time and a place where fate seemed to be taking a short break, holding its breath. When, just for a moment, I thought I was not only on my way, but had also already arrived.

I got off the bus in the middle of the night. Screwed my eyes up against the sun. It was scouring across an island out to sea, off to the north. Red and dull. Like me. Beyond it lay yet more sea. And, beyond that, the North Pole. Perhaps this was somewhere they wouldn’t find me.

I looked round. In the three other points of the compass low mountain ridges sloped down towards me. Red and green heather, rocks, a few clumps of stunted birch trees. To the east the land slid into the sea, stony and flat as a pancake, and to the southwest it was as if it had been cut with a knife at the point where the sea started. A hundred metres or so above the motionless sea a plateau of open landscape took over, stretching inland. The Finnmark plateau. The end of the line, as Grand­father used to say.

The hard-packed gravel road I stood on led to a cluster of low buildings. The only thing that stuck out was the church tower. I’d woken up in my seat on the bus just as we were passing a sign with the name “Kåsund” on it, down by the shore, near a wooden jetty. And I thought, why not? and pulled the cord above the window to illuminate the stop sign above the bus driver.

I put on the jacket of my suit, grabbed my leather case and started walking. The pistol in the jacket pocket bounced against my hip. Right on the bone—I’d always been too thin. I stopped and tugged my money belt down under my shirt so that the notes would cushion the knocks.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the air was so clear that I felt I could see a very long way. As far as the eye can see, as the expression goes. They say that the Finnmark plateau is beautiful. Fucked if I know. Isn’t that just the sort of thing people say about inhospitable places? Either to make themselves seem a bit tough, to lay claim to some sort of insight or superiority, the way people boast about liking incomprehensible music or unreadable literature? I’d done it myself. I used to think it might make up for at least a few of the things about me that weren’t good enough. Or else it was simply meant as a consolation to the few people who had to live there: “It’s so beautiful here.” Because what was so beautiful about this flat, monotonous, bleak landscape? It’s like Mars. A red desert. Uninhabitable and cruel. The perfect hiding place. Hopefully.

The branches of a clump of trees by the side of the road in front of me moved. A moment later a figure leaped across the ditch and onto the road. My hand went automatically for the pistol but I stopped it: it wasn’t one of them. This character looked like a joker who’d jumped straight out of a pack of cards.

“Good evening!” he called to me.

He walked towards me with a strange, rolling gait, so bandy-legged that I could see the road stretch out towards the village between his legs. As he came closer I saw he wasn’t wearing a court jester’s hat on his head but a Sámi cap. Blue, red and yellow—only the bells were missing. He was wearing pale leather boots, and his blue anorak, patched with black tape, had several tears revealing yellow-coloured padding that looked more like loft insulation than feathers.

“Forgive me asking,” he said. “But who are you?”

He was at least two heads shorter than I. His face was broad, his grin wide, and his eyes at something of a slant. If you piled up all the clichés people in Oslo have about what a Sámi or native Laplander looked like, you’d end up with this bloke.

“I came on the bus,” I said.

“So I saw. I’m Mattis.”

“Mattis,” I repeated, to gain a few seconds to think about the answer to his next inevitable question.

“Who are you, then?”

“Ulf,” I said. It seemed as good a name as any.

“And what are you doing in Kåsund?”

“I’m just visiting,” I said, nodding towards the cluster of houses.

“Who are you visiting?”

I shrugged. “No one special.”

“Are you from the Countryside Commission, or are you a preacher?”

I didn’t know what people from the Countryside Commission looked like, so I shook my head and ran a hand through my long, hippy hair. Maybe I should cut it. Less eye-catching.

“Forgive me asking,” he said again, “but what are you, then?”

“A hunter,” I said. It might have been the mention of the Countryside Commission. And it was as much the truth as it was a lie.

“Oh? Are you going to hunt here, Ulf?”

“Looks like good hunting territory.”

“Yes, but you’re a week early. Hunting season doesn’t start until the fifteenth of August.”

“Is there a hotel here?”

The Sámi smiled broadly. He coughed and spat out a brown lump that I hoped was chewing tobacco or something similar. It hit the ground with an audible splat.

“Lodging house?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Camping cabin? Room to rent?” On the telephone pole behind him someone had stuck up a poster about a dance band who were going to be playing in Alta. So the city couldn’t be too far away. Maybe I should have stayed on the bus until it got there.

“How about you, Mattis?” I said, slapping away a gnat that was biting my forehead. “You wouldn’t happen to have a bed I could borrow tonight?”

“I burned my bed in the stove back in May. We had a cold May.”

“Sofa? Mattress?”

“Mattress?” He spread his hands out towards the heather-covered plateau.

“Thanks, but I like roofs and walls. I’ll have to try and find an empty dog kennel. Goodnight.” I set off towards the houses.

“The only kennel you’ll find in Kåsund is that one,” he called out plaintively, his voice falling.

I turned round. He was pointing at the building in front of the cluster of houses.

“The church?”

He nodded.

“Is it open in the middle of the night?”

Mattis tilted his head. “Do you know why no one steals anything in Kåsund? Because there’s nothing worth stealing apart from reindeer.”

Meet the Author

Jo Nesbø’s books have been translated into forty-seven languages. He is the author of the Harry Hole series, as well as Headhunters, The Son, Blood on SnowMidnight Sun, and several children’s books. He has received the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel. He is also a musician, songwriter, and economist and lives in Oslo.


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Midnight Sun: A novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do love the Harry Hole novels, and this has that flavor, while staying under 180 pages. Not quite so enthralling but a really good read none the less. Well worth the couple hours..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quite a tale sorry it ended so soon
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Midnight Sun opens on bleakness, and the mood does not change too drastically from the opening page. Jon Hansen has left Oslo and arrived in the Arctic Circle in an attempt to hide from the Fisherman. Jon, now calling himself Ulf, meets several people in his quest to hide: Lea and her son, Knut, and Mattis. These three people help Ulf in his quest to find peace and happiness. The story unfolds slowly about Ulf's life and his errors, but we also meet Lea, a woman who accepts the decision of her father even though she aches for a better life. I can see this book as a movie done in black and white, but an ending in color.