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The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller | Historical Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Ester can see part of her father’s face through the bars on the window. The hairline, the fringe over his forehead and the top of his glasses. That is when he sees her. They exchange looks. His hand grasps a bar on the door window. She closes her eyes and regrets that she has seen this. She wishes she had spared him the humiliation….’

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl will be published by Orenda Books in paperback on 21st March 2019 (available now in ebook format) and is described as ‘a stunning and compelling wartime thriller with its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose….exploring one of Norway’s darkest periods of history from the Godfather of Nordic Noir’ With wonderful translation by Don Bartlett, The Courier is a thriller that has been compared to the work of John Le Carré, a fitting analogy I would think…..

The Courier is a novel that takes the reader on a journey beyond the final days of the Second World War and into the following decades. After treaties were signed and hands shaken, the impact of the previous years did not just fade into the distance. The aftermath of the brutalities inflicted rippled throughout the generations and still do today. Although The Courier is a book of fiction, many historical references are based on actual facts. I was completely unaware as to the extent of Norway’s involvement in the Second World War, a country that was never really mentioned when we studied this period in school, so I was fascinated to read about it here and to look beyond the novel. (always the sign of a good read when I’m enthused to do my own research)

In 2012 the then Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, apologised for the role his country played in deporting its own Jews as Europe marked Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Norwegians carried out the arrests, Norwegians drove the trucks and it happened in Norway….. It is time for us to acknowledge that Norwegian policemen, civil servants and other Norwegians took part in the arrest and deportation of Jews.” – BBC News 27.01.12

It is with this in mind that Kjell Ola Dahl departs from his favoured police procedural/psychological thriller genre and brings us this book filled with the horrors and mistrust of an era, a book that rivals many espionage style reads currently (and historically) on the shelves.

It’s 1942 and Ester had lived a comfortable life with her mother and father in Oslo. But Ester was frustrated by the increasing influence of the Nazi regime and was willing to do her bit for the resistance. Ester received an urgent message that her father was targeted as part of a Jewish roundup but Ester was too late to warn him and had to stand and watch as he was taken away. Ester had no where to run and, fearing for her own safety, she approached her childhood friend, Åse and her husband, Gerhard Falkum, a heroic member of the resistance, for help.

Ester made her escape into Sweden, where she continued to assist refugees escaping the terror of the Nazis, but always with an underlying hope that her family were safe. She crossed paths with Gerhard Falkum, a man in the shadows, frustrated with his inability to do more but also in hiding after being accused of murdering his wife, Ester’s friend, Åse. But after a mysterious fire which takes Gerhard’s life, Ester is left alone and afraid. As the war came to it’s inevitable conclusion, Ester remained in Sweden, the place she called home.

Twenty-five years pass and Ester’s world is suddenly faced with upheavel, as Gerhard makes an astonishing reappearance, looking to re-establish a relationship with his long-lost daughter, Turid.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Ester is unexpectedly reacquainted with people from her past, from that life of secrecy that she had left behind. But can you ever escape the hidden dangers of your past?

Kjell Ola Dahl builds the suspense throughout, seamlessly shifting between the decades, as the layers are slowly peeled back. The true character of each participant is revealed as the story exposes the depths of secrecy and classified information that was long hidden, never expected to see the light of day again.

The Courier is a tension-filled thriller wrapped around interchanging timelines. It has a strong plot that both entertains and informs, capturing the imagination of the reader from the opening pages. The Courier is a spy novel, it’s a historical guide, it’s a mystery, all fantastically translated by Don Bartlett, bringing the writings of Kjell Ola Dahl to a much wider and very appreciative new audience of readers across the globe.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, so it was an absolute treat for me to have the opportunity to read The Courier. A highly compelling read, packed with suspense and intrigue. Highly entertaining!

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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