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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 7 August 2017
A wonderful mix of history, thriller and characterisation.
I found the way the author explored the process of ageing and how memories, guilt and regret can tangle with the present enthralling. Also thought provoking was the references to the atrocities committed in all conflicts mentioned are placed against each other with personal reflections from a number of characters in this tragedy.
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A wonderful story with so many strands that keep you musing on them afterwards. It's funny, sweet and sad. I loved it.
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on 25 February 2013
A serious work. Well written, thoughtful, comic, moving, fascinating, meaningful. Thank you Mr Miller and I look forward to your next book.
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on 7 August 2017
Fine
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 February 2013
It is a long, lo-o-ong time since a book made me cry. Truly cry. And a book that made me laugh and cry? Never.

This is the most dazzling debut. Where has Derek B. Miller been? Where does he spring from? The back fly-leaf of Norwegian By Night tells us that he was born and raised in Boston and now lives in Oslo with his wife and children. He is the director of The Policy Lab and a senior fellow with the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. He has a PhD from the University of Geneva and an MA from Georgetown University in co-operation with St. Catherine's College, Oxford. "But enough with the credentials already," as Miller might have his hero, Sheldon, say. "Get on with the plot!"

Which is this: Sheldon Horowitz is a grumpy, guilt-driven 82-year old war vet who lives in New York and is recently widowed. His grand-daughter insists that he come to live with her and her Norwegian husband in Oslo. There are only 1000 Jews in Norway amongst a population of five million. Sheldon is one of them. How will he adjust? And should he interfere when he hears a violent argument erupting from the upstairs flat where a woman and her son are clearly in terrible trouble? To his mind, Europe turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the Jews' plight in the Second World War; he is not going to make the same mistake. Instead, he makes another. A different and devastating one.

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This book is packed with them too. Sheldon is a remarkable, unique and highly memorable character. Can the author really have conjured this tragicomic creation out of thin air? When his grand-daughter Rhea argues that she doesn't want to rent out the spare room in the Oslo flat saying, "It feels weird knowing strange people are under your feet all the time", Sheldon counters with, "That's because you don't have kids. You get used to that feeling." He also has intense dialogues with God who takes the human-ghost guise of an old friend of his. There is time travel to other decades, other wars. There is fascinating insight into the immigrant situation in liberal Norway: "How tolerant should we be of intolerance?" And running throughout this amazing many-layered book, there is a first-rate thriller that will have your heart in your mouth.

This book is one of a kind and out on its own. Mr Miller, may I thank you for what I am utterly confident is going to prove to be my read of the year?
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 19 February 2014
Ok, it's my failing, no doubt, that I didn't get more out of this book. So many people have loved it that you can take my two star rating with a grain of salt. I just didn't get it, from the title - what did that mean? - to the motivations of the central characters to the genre. Yes, even the genre - was it a thriller or a story about a man looking back on his life or a black comedy or...it had elements of all of those things but it didn't really deliver on any of them.

The hero is Sheldon Horowitz, aged 82, who, after losing his wife, has moved from New York to Norway to live with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. Sheldon fought in Korea in his youth and always kept the details of what happened there a secret from his family, to the extent that when he talks about it now, they assume that he must have dementia. When a neighbour is savagely murdered, Sheldon takes her child and goes on the run, to protect the child. This decision hinges on some assumptions that it seems unlikely anyone would actually make and it weakens what follows. Sheldon and the child evade the police all over Norway while the killer moves in on his family, determined to track the boy down. At the same time, being with the boy causes Sheldon to revisit and re-examine many aspects of his relationship with his own son.

I did really like parts of this book, particularly the loving depictions of Norway and the occasional flashes of humour. However it was let down for me by the fact that none of the characters were fleshed out - and some of them had the potential to be terrific characters. I hope the author revisits Sigrid the police chief and that we get to find out more about her. Sheldon was also a great character - there is a lovely scene when he puts his granddaughter in her place about his dementia - but the way that the story kept chopping and changing between his past and his present and the police and the granddaughter and the villains meant that we kept losing focus on him. Also the ending, when it comes, is really rushed. We never fully understand the villain's motivations and hello? what about Lars please?
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on 19 January 2016
Fantastic story. Sheldon Horowitz is an 82-year-old who was a heroic sniper in the Korean War, but his family thinks he was a clerk, and he doesn’t argue when they disparage his military service. This book has everything: love of family, the experience of aging and loss along with the insultingly low expectations we have of older people, and a first-rate adventure story.

Sheldon is angry. War and the mistreatment of Jews are two of his main issues. When he moves to Oslo (and part of my enjoyment was the author’s witty portrayal of Norwegians), he clashes with a pocket of Serbian war criminals to save a four-year-old boy. (The author is a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.) The only ding on the book is that some of the reminiscing and introspection goes on too long (the Viet Nam conflict imagined by Sheldon). This is the redemptive story of a heroic grandpa. I would compare it to City of Thieves by David Benioff for dark humor, high stakes, and compelling characters. Highly recommended.
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on 10 March 2017
Am trying to make my way through this and am about to give up. The idea sounded interesting... an American, 82-year old living in Norway gets involved in a crime.......... but the execution is poor. Lots of what I consider to be unnecessary past details of the central character keep getting in the way of what is happening in the present day. And the actual happenings in the present day are silly. This story feels like it's written by someone with a very limited exposure to non-American things..........everything is interpreted through that lens. Now I expected some of that because that's what interesting about an American, 82-year old living in Norway - the ability to reflect on the differences of the two cultures and use of those differences to cause the central character to make mistakes, etc, him being a fish out of water kind of thing......... but it's not used in that manner and it's usage is overpowering, to the extent that it feels like New York is more important to the story than Norway. Maybe it changes as you get further into the story............ Also, I find the central character unbelievable - everything is heavy handed regarding his characterisation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 January 2014
Sheldon Horowitz, an 82-year old ex-Marine sniper in the Korean War has reluctantly left New York, where he worked as a watch repairer, to live with his granddaughter, Rhea, and her husband, Lars, in Oslo after Mabel, his wife, died. When a neighbor from the Balkans is attacked by her husband, Enver, Sheldon lets her and her young son into Rhea's apartment. The attacker, realising where they are, attempts to break in. Sheldon hides with the boy in a closet but, instead of following them, his mother tries to calm Enver. Instead she is strangled and the old man and the boy, Paul, take flight leaving a cryptic note telling his daughter where they are going.

The police investigation is led by Police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård who, like all Scandinavian police officers, has her problems ["The first is I'm not pretty. I'm plain. The second is that it is near impossible to know whether a Norwegian man is interested'"]. The difference is that the police investigation is not centre-stage and the author, although living in Norway, is American. The training that Sheldon received over 50 years ago is put to good use as he travels across Norway to escape Enver and his henchmen, and from the police whom he suspects may be inclined to return Paul to his father.

Sheldon has never come to terms with the death of his son, Saul, in Vietnam and may also be suffering from dementia. As he and Paul make their way to their hide-out, he has flashbacks to his life with Mabel, his friends from the Marines and his relationship with Saul as a boy and a man, and gets annoyed at his failing physical condition. Sheldon's Jewishness allows the author to describe the Holocaust and the attitude of Norwegian people to the Jews in the aftermath of WW II and today. In parallel, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the rise of the Kossovo Liberation Front, its involvement in drugs and the nationhood of Kossovo are discussed and Miller questions the immigration policies and humanitarian concerns of Norwegian governments that allow so many people refuge in the country, liberal policies supported by Ødegård, who has difficulty explaining the case to her boss `There are no Palestinians involved in this crime. There are no Israelis. There are no Arabs. None of it has anything to do with the Middle East. At all'.

Although the flashbacks to Korea, New York, Vietnam and the days after arriving in Norway are complex, and Sheldon has a one-sided conversation with Paul and discusses his predicament with Bill, a dead New York shopkeeper, Miller tells the story with a clarity and humanity that ensures the reader's engagement. However, Miller describes the extreme violence that is relevant to the story but does not dwell on it as some crime writers do. Perhaps Miller takes on too many political and social issues, but one has to applaud his ambition.

Each reader must decide how much of Sheldon's Korean War service is true and how much is made up or the result of senility. As we understand the level of Sheldon's grief and guilt over the deaths of Saul and the North Koreans he shot, our opinion changes; perhaps he is paranoic? "They'd been tracking him since 1952 - he was sure of it. You don't kill twelve men named Kim from the top of a seawall at Inchon and think they're going to forgive and forget ... It took Sheldon years to learn how to spot them, feel their presence, evade them, deceive them". One advantage of Oslo is that "hiding a North Korean in Norway is hard. Hiding one in New York is like hiding a tree in a forest". This does not affect the story's outcome but influences how you regard Sheldon.

We hear enough of the thoughts of all the main characters, except Paul, that each becomes a rounded individual. Perhaps introducing Enver's "protection, bodyguard, soldier" as "Zezake: the Black" was unnecessary and the Norwegian police's inability to find Sheldon driving a tractor with a trailer carrying an inflatable dingy was unlikely - when briefly stopped by PC Plodsson, Paul was in the dingy. Surely Sheldon would be clapped in jail for infringing Nordic `elfin safety'?

Although this debut novel transcends genres, it is not a hard read. It is another example of a remarkable author who grabs the reader and holds on until the final page and is one of those rare books where the enthusiastic blurb is true.
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on 5 August 2017
I started this book full of anticipation and I finished it full of regret. The serious passages were often interesting but the dialogue was extremely badly written with no depth to the writing. The author just seemed to be after cheap laughs and gave no thought to structure. The characters were not well formed and I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished the book. Sorry to those who liked it; to me it was an inferior novel.
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