Book Review | The Courier #BlogTour @annecater

I like to switch things up every now and then and read something that I maybe wouldn’t ordinarily go for. Usually historical fiction isn’t really my thing but I can be swayed if it’s set during wartime. It just so happened that The Courier is a mystery too and has a very intriguing synopsis.

about the book

The Courier aw.indd

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterisation and clever plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically- acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.

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my thoughts

The Courier is set between three different times in the 1940s, the 1960s and in 2015. I have to say I found the different timelines quite hard to grasp at first but soon they flowed quite well together. It was certainly very interesting having multiple timelines in this case because of the differences the war made to the characters, the suspicion and the way they had to act during the war to survive definitely shows later in their lives and adds some extra tension to the plot.

I had no idea how much involvement Norway had during the war, I suppose because when I learned about it, it was mostly about Britain’s fight. It still amazes me the reach that this movement had and quite how many lives were devastated by it.

There were so many questions in this book, I liked that every time I thought we might be getting close to any answers something would pop up and keep the guessing going. As I said the setting lends itself to suspicious characters, everyone seems like they are hiding things and that they have secrets because they had to play their cards so close to their chests during the war. It’s great for making you wonder about characters motivations, and I enjoyed the way that things unfolded, information was found out in bits and pieces that had to be puzzled together.

The tension was pretty high for a lot of the book, however, there would be moments or scenes that would suddenly kind of lose it, there would be a lot of extraneous detail that meant you lost the build up from what you had just read. This might just be this writers style, it was always quite descriptive and occasionally would add to the setting but personally, I felt like it made the pace of the book chop and change and that made for quite a difficult reading experience at times.

Having said that, once the book got past the three-quarter point, the suspense did continually build. I was desperate to find out the answers to all my questions and found that I couldn’t put the book down until I’d reached the end.

The Courier is more of a slow burn book, but with a high stakes atmosphere. I’m glad that I decided to leave my comfort zone and take a chance on it.

courier blog poster 2019

about the author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

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Big thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the tour.

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