‘Dark, gritty and compulsive … feels like a classic of the genre’ – William Ryan
The Assistant spans two timelines, during the interwar years of post-1920s and pre-1939. In 1924, Jack Rivers is a smuggler for a transport company run by Arvid Bjerke. They have a good working relationship until Jack eventually gets imprisoned and Bjerke remains on the outside. Fast-forward to 1938 and Jack Rivers is now working as an assistant for a P.I., one Ludvig Paaske, an ex-cop who was involved with the original capture and incarceration of Rivers. They have an unusual relationship due to their past but it works until a woman shows up at the office looking for their help tracking her husband. She is suspicious of his activities and needs help in identifying his movements. Initially Paaske and Rivers are happy with taking on the new work but when Rivers recognises a face from the past, the case takes on a whole new dimension and Rivers finds himself in a fight for his innocence.
The Assistant gives the reader a real sense of what life was like during those years. As tensions were rising across Europe, the rise of communism and fascism were evident. The Spanish Civil War was raging and meetings were being held around Norway looking for support and action against the Norwegian government’s stance on policies. In the midst of all the political drama, Rivers is on the run with the shadow of an enigmatic woman a constant by his side.
Jack Rivers is a great character with a wonderfully convoluted history. He is far from perfect and is a bit of a lothario but his heart is in the right place and his fight for truth and justice is genuine. Ludvig Paaske, on the other hand, is more of a shady individual. Whereas Jack Rivers is an open book, Ludvig Paaske carries some dark secrets. As the status-quo shifts between the two, the truth slowly emerges and their relationship becomes very unstable.
The Assistant is an entertaining thriller, a good old-fashioned mystery that takes the reader right into the heart of Oslo during those very unstable years. This is 100% Noir. The dialogue, the shady characters, prohibition, murder, mystery and, of course, the suave and likeable Jack Rivers right in the centre. I’m hoping for Jack Rivers to be developed further as a character in a future series, a Norwegian Philip Marlowe so to speak, revealing the underbelly of Norway’s war years, pre-, post- and during. Very atmospheric. Very enjoyable!
(c) Swirl and Thread
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