Cbr11bingo TBR/Bingo #3
There’s nothing like a book sale to help me stock up on a ton of books that I would probably never have given a second glance to otherwise. Last spring, our local library’s book sale coincided with the going-out-of-business sale of the local Warehouse Books. This is how I ended up with Midnight Sun. I recognized Jo Nesbo’s name and figured this was a good opportunity to familiarize myself with his work. Midnight Sun does not feature Nesbo’s well known detective Harry Hole and is not a murder mystery; it’s a so-so thriller about a man who becomes entangled in a small community in northern Norway as he attempts to flee the Oslo drug lord/crime boss who wants him dead.
Ulf is the assumed name of Midnight Sun’s narrator. He is a man on the run northward with a load of cash and a gun. Ulf has no plan, he just needs to get away from the Fisherman, the drug kingpin whom he has doublecrossed. As Ulf relates his journey, he occasionally dips back into his past, revealing his drug and drinking problems as well as his troubled family relationships and his reason for becoming entangled with the Fisherman. Ulf is essentially alone in the world now and knows that eventually the Fisherman’s goons will catch up to him because they always get their man. When he feels he has enough miles between himself and the Fisherman’s men, Ulf gets off the bus moving north and decides to go off the beaten path. He finds himself in Kasund, a village of indigenous people called Sami who are savvy enough to see through his lies about a hunting trip but also kind enough to help a stranger who is in trouble and has money.
The first people Ulf meets in Kasund are Mattis, who is a Sami elder and jack of all trades, 10-year-old Knut, and his beautiful mother Lea. Lea’s father is the minister of the Laestadian Church — a conservative off-shoot of Lutheranism. Lea’s husband is missing at sea. She and Knut help Ulf get set up in the hunting shack out in the woods, but as much as Ulf thinks he wants to be alone and away from everyone, he finds himself drawn into the lives of these unusual people. Matters get complicated by love triangles, the harsh strictures of Laestadianism, and the pursuit of the Fisherman’s men.
The biggest weakness of the novel is that its characters are not fully fleshed out and come across as rather two dimensional. Ulf’s background and motivations are a bit sketchy. Details are rather scarce when it comes to his family, the Fisherman and his drug operation, Lea and her family, too. The reader gets just enough information so that their actions make sense and the plot is advanced.
Midnight Sun is not a bad read. The writing (translation by Neil Smith) is good, the descriptions of northern Norway during summer are vivid, and the action gets pretty exciting toward the end. You could easily get through this one in a day or two if you are looking for a decent weekend diversion.