Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

Book Midnight Sun by Jo NesboMidnight Sun is set in the strange, empty, sun-lit landscape of northern Norway. It follows the plight of Jon, a hapless young man on the run from Oslo’s biggest drug lord: The Fisherman. He has no doubt that he will soon be hunted down and shot. Stopping off in Kåsund, a small fishing community where everyone knows everyone, he meets the striking Lea and her son Knut, and attempts to delay the inevitable by hiding out in a hunting cabin.   

I read this book in one weekend. The more you read, the more you get into the mind-set of Jon, the protagonist (whose fake name Ulf, seems to suit him better) and fear for his life. The crux of the story hangs on his unusual friendship with Lea. She is a country girl and a strict believer, whose father leads the local Christian sect (the Læstadians). Jon is a drug dealer, a city boy and an adamant atheist. Yet something draws them together.

The harsh arctic scenery seems to lend a certain inevitability to Jon’s situation. The summer sun will eventually set, and The Fisherman will find him. But it also lights up a stunning landscape, which Nesbo describes beautifully:

“A silent emptiness, a reticent restlessness. Even the greenery of summer held a promise of harder, colder times that would try to pull you down, and which would win in the end.”

The novel has a scenic quality about it. You can imagine it being turned into a film, with wide angle shots and the constant, overpowering presence of the midnight sun lighting up everything below, so that there is nowhere to hide.

Flashbacks gradually reveal the reasons why Jon ended up in such a bizarre and hopeless situation and, the further you delve into his story, the more you realise that things are not as they seem. Jon teaches Knut the importance of learning how to lose, and this theme runs through the novel, as he recounts the many failures from his past and approaches the ultimate, inevitable failure of death.

My only criticism would be that this book is too short. I wanted more of it. But it’s very brevity builds the suspense, as Jon waits for The Fisherman to track him down, and the pages yet to be read grow fewer and fewer…

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