The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl

Thank you to Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books Publicity Team for sending me a review copy of this book. All views are my own.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I received this novel to review from Orenda Books, I can’t lie, I felt overwhelmed. Kjell Ola Dahl is one of the most prominent authors in Norway; his prose is one of the most engrossing and captivating. I was overwhelmed because on one hand big expectations and didn’t want that to deter my view of this author but on the other hand I knew that if I didn’t try I wouldn’t ever find out.

I am a huge fan of Nordic Noir and Dahl is considered the King, the Godfather, the OG. The Assistant is a reminder to those who have had any doubts of why Dahl holds that title. Intricately plotted, with characters that jump of the page and a very strong sense of place. Norway during the prohibition era and the period leading up to the second world war has never looked, smelled and tasted better.

Kjell Ola Dahl doesn’t write novels; he creates experiences by executing a strong sense of place of a spellbinding period that leaves its readers crave more.

The premise of the novel is what caught my attention from the get go. The idea of having former nemesis working together and seeing how their relationship evolved through the years was really thrilling. Structurally the novel jumps between two timelines which in itself at the moment seems to be an attractive tool to build up tension and revelations in crime and thriller novels. But what Dahl manages to create with the timeline is an immersive experience in two unique worlds that readers don’t often get time to enjoy. The historical elements seem conjured flawlessly and that is where Dahl shines. The immersive narrative and descriptions presented in a matter-of-factly way allows readers to create their own opinions on the action and characters. Due to this I found myself wishing that I wouldn’t ever finish this book, wanting to stay in the world that Dahl created and even explore it even more.

The two main characters of the book, Jack Rivers and Ludvig Paaske will be the main attraction to this novel. Being a more character driven novel, Rivers and Paaske are the backbone of this novel. I see Jack Rivers being an instant fan favourite but my heart belongs to Paaske. The way things end for Paaske really hurt me in my feelings.

The Assistant is a great reminder to everyone why Kjell Ola Dahl is the King of Nordic Noir. Kjell Ola Dahl doesn’t write novels; he creates experiences by executing a strong sense of place and characters that are easy to fall in love with by taking his readers through a spellbinding journey that leaves the reader craving for more.

Don Bartlett also deserves a lot of credit as without him this book wouldn’t have come to life on the English market. The translation is impeccable and feels natural for readers that have read before translated fiction. He manages to capture the Nordic feel of the novel brilliantly without sacrificing the narrative that Dahl infused in it.

Published by Orenda Books, The Assistant is available in e-book and will be coming out in May in paperback. I would strongly recommend this novel for lovers of historical fiction, character driven thrillers and amazing tension. This is also a great novel for writers who are wanting to understand effective tools and methods used in writing for sense of place and good direct characterization.

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