Blood On Snow: author Joe Nesbo, translator Neil Smith, reader Patti Smith
This brief story is about the anatomy of a murder and a murderer. Olav is a hired killer with a heart. He can be cruel and kind. How those two aspects of a personality dwell side by side within the same person is illuminated in his thoughts and actions. He is learning disabled and has difficulty reading; he has educated himself, somewhat, and enjoys books, although it is with some degree of difficulty.
Olav narrates the whole story as he explains how he essentially lives by the sword and will die by the sword. As he describes how he became who he is, the reader will go through a variety of emotions. First perhaps, Olav will not be very likeable, given his chosen profession, second though, the reader will feel some conflict as he shows a very caring, compassionate side, which is the antithesis to his indifferent, detached side.
As a child, he witnessed his father’s abusive treatment of his mother, a weak person who drank too much, perhaps to escape from the cruelty in her life. Olav was very attached to her. Growing up, he witnessed other ways that people were mistreated. He did not have a very fulfilling life, probably because of his chosen profession, but although he could take a life with impunity, he could not abide seeing women abused.
In his effort to find a lifestyle, albeit one involving crime, he has failed as a getaway driver and a pimp. He realized he was not good at robbery either. Simply put, murder was his game. He could take a life with cold abandon. “It was not personal”. It was business.
The story minutely examines his thought processes as he goes about his “business”, gets inside his head as he interacts with his employer and his victims, as he tries to carve out a life for himself with his limited abilities. He often identifies with those people whom he sees as victims as he considers himself one too.
The story takes place in Oslo, Norway. It is an intense psychological study of an introspective young man who also happens to be a killer in whom compassion and indifference occupy the same space without the accompanying conscience to guide his behavior. The underlying love story, involving two very different individuals who are both afflicted with some disability, is really very touching, in the end. The book opens with a bloody scene and closes with one as well. The characters are all flawed in some way and are not very likeable. The ending is a bit macabre, but as you spend some time with Olaf, you will discover another creative tale written by a wonderfully talented Scandinavian author.
It is read by someone with a very gravelly, monotone voice which at first turns off the listener, but eventually it grows on one, and it becomes the perfect vehicle for the tale.