Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
It frustrates me that I didn't like this more
on 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?