Jo Nesbo certainly knows how to put together a good thriller. His books also work very well as films; you may have seen or read Headhunters. This new book, Midnight Sun, would also make a brilliant movie, full of atmosphere and with the harsh landscape of Northern Norway playing a major role alongside the actors. Among his other books are ten volumes of cases for Harry Hole, an offbeat Oslo detective in the true Scandinavian Noire tradition. The last edition of those says that Nesbo has sold 25 million copies of his books. Deservedly, they are great thrillers.
The plot of this slim standalone volume is simple, Jon or Ulf as he becomes known, flees to the north having double crossed The Fisherman, a ruthless drug lord from Oslo. He tries to hide in an old shepherd’s cabin just beyond the smallest of remote communities. Everyone knows he is there, but will they betray him when the ruthless killers come looking?
A relationship develops between Ulf and a young boy called Knut, who leads him to the cabin and brings him food and news. Then there is Lea, Knut’s recently widowed mother, who is part of a strict and curious religious sect. She has secrets too. Ulf’s presence is putting them all in danger, but can he escape when the hired killers come looking for him?
During the brief summer inside the Arctic Circle the sun never actually sets, but drifts along the horizon before starting to rise once more. It is always light and Ulf is always wary, knowing he is hunted. Isolated in his hut it is hard to know when to sleep and when to keep watch.
Our sympathy is with Ulf, even though we know he was one of the bad guys, a fixer for the drug lord and small time drug dealer himself. We cannot help but like him and obviously he will fall for the initially cold Lea and her hyperactive young son.
There is a great deal of tension as the hunters come. Are the villagers double-crossing Ulf or are they on his side? Is it even possible for him to escape or will the rest of his life be spent on the run? Although the story is simple, punctuated with enough flashbacks to fill in the back-story, we are still on edge right to the end.