In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family 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, Ester’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but 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 Turid. 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 characterisation and clever plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.
The Courier was translated by Don Bartlett and published by Orenda Books on the 21st March 2019. Many thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of the book for this review and inviting me onto the blog tour.
Kjell Ola Dahl has published 11 books which includes a police procedural/ psychological thriller series featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. The Courier is completely different…in time period, subject and characterisation – a brave deviation but a completely successful one.
The Courier is set mainly between the early 1940’s and the late 1960’s – fleetingly the reader is taken to present time (for when the book was first published in 2015). We meet Ester, a young Jewish woman in 1942 when she is delivering anti-Nazi newspapers in Oslo. Unfortunately, Ester and her family have been found by the Nazi’s resulting in Ester fleeing for her life to Stockholm whilst he parents are taken to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Ester had a best friend, Åse who was murdered, her death was deemed to be at the hands of her jealous husband, Gerhard Falkum. Ester meets up with Gerhard in Stockholm and begins to form a relationship with him until he is killed in a house fire….but is all that it seems to be?!
1967 brings Ester and Gerhard back together again, rather than being dead, Gerhard has been living a secret life that intrigues not only Ester but people in their past…
The Courier is a wonderful slow burn read. For me, I didn’t study history or World War II in any depth at school so not really familiar with the details. As such, I had to read this book slower than I usually would so I could keep up with timelines and events. It is full of tension, mainly generated through the slow-burn narrative as well as the (mainly) dual timelines. The author really brings to life the fear that people lived with both during the war and for decades afterwards, the scars that never quite healed.
I highly recommend The Courier to historical fiction/espionage fans…you are in for a treat 🙂
One of the godfathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries and sold over two million copies. He lives in Oslo.