Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl BLOG TOUR @ko_dahl @OrendaBooks #TheAssistant #BlogTour #BookReview


Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past ... and an extraordinary secret.

Both a fascinating portrait of Oslo’s interwar years, with Nazis operating secretly on Norwegian soil and militant socialists readying workers for war, The Assistant is also a stunningly sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hard-boiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.

The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl is published in paperback on 13 May 2021 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, for this Blog Tour. 

I was delighted when I heard that Kjell Ola Dahl had written another historical crime story, I read and enjoyed the last one; The Courier and had high hopes for The Assistant.

I have been totally caught up in this clever and multi layered story, Dahl writes with such ease, allowing his readers to experience the country of Norway; the sights, the sounds, the tradition and the history.

The Assistant of the title is Jack Rivers, although his helping role comes later in the book. At the beginning, back in 1924 Jack Rivers and his eventual boss Ludwig Paaske are sworn enemies. Jack spends his days transporting illegal spirits in and around Kristiania. Norway is under prohibition, with strong spirits outlawed, but Jack has a steady supply.

The author then travels to Kristiana in 1938; now known as Oslo and surprisingly we find Jack and Ludwig working together as private detectives. We don't know, at first, how this unusual pairing came about, the ex police officer and the man he was desperate to capture, now working together on privately commissioned cases. They've been visited by a woman who suspects her husband of infidelity, For Ludwig, it seems like a simple case, yet Jack is convinced there is far more to it.

The Assistant is expertly structured, and as the author flits back and forth in time, the two strands of the story becoming increasingly interwoven. Jack was correct, there is far more to this case that first appears and his past is linked to the events of the present day. 

Jack Rivers is a fabulous character, I'd love to see him with his own series. He's intuitive and clever, yet passionate and caring, His loyalties are stretched to their limit by what becomes apparent during the investigations, he has time to reflect on past events and ponder the future. Paaske, on the other hand is something of an enigma to me. Colder, and not as easy to understand. However, as an investigative duo, they are such a joy to discover. 

The Assistant is much more than a crime story. It's also a history lesson and I learnt so much about pre-war Norway. Dahl's story is,  as always, impeccably plotted. It is original and absorbing and I would recommend this to all. 

Kjell Ola Dahl was born in the city Gjovik, in Norway in 1958, but grew up in Oslo. 

Dahl was a teacher and social adviser in High school when he started to write the Oslo Detectives series. 
Two times Dahl has won the Riverton-prize, the Norwegian National prize for the best novel of crime fiction (in 2000 and in 2015). 
He won the prestigious Brage-prize for the Courier, a standalone novel of crime fiction set in Norway and Sweden during World War II and in 1967. 
The first book in the series of the Oslo Detectives - Lethal investments - was published in in Norway 1993. 
Dahl lives on the farm Torgunrud in Feiring, by the lake Mjosa. Read more at

Twitter @ko_dahl

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