The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (Orenda Books)

Orenda Books are well-known for publishing fictional works of art from across the globe. In particular, they have been successful in attracting some of the best writers in the Nordic Noir scene, Kjell Ola Dahl being one of them. The Courier has taken off like a rocket since its release and I can understand why. Here’s the blurb:

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, 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, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship 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. 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 characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in an exceptional, shocking thriller.

One of the most distinguishing features of this novel is its staccato short, present-tense sentence structure, allowing the reader to embrace the tension that builds up in each scene. As a reader, you are forced to take continuous pauses in the narrative to make sure you have the same time to take in what is happening as the various characters.

Starting in present day, Dahl flips between 1942 and 1967 to disjoint the narrative just enough to replay what has happened and the repercussions of these occurrences. The narrative never stands still, constantly moving from one period of time to another to describe Ester’s activities during the war and how these activities return to throw her life into turmoil after seeking out a more normal life.

Dahl takes the reader on a journey of discovery of spy activities in the Second World War and how years later, the effects are still felt. Ester is trying to leave her experiences behind her but her attempt at living a quiet life gets disrupted by her past. Her involvement in the war efforts then, still invokes the same curiosity in her, which Dahl portrays beautifully.

Generally, Nordic Noir or historical novels wouldn’t be my genre of choice, yet The Courier combines these two brilliantly and I have really enjoyed reading it. Yet again, I have been reminded never to disregard a book because of the genre it falls into. The Courier is going to be a great success, of that I have no doubt. It would make a brilliant film, in my opinion. Orenda Books consistently release books that engross me from start to finish, and The Courier is no exception.

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