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 a exceptional, shocking thriller.
While I do enjoy a historical novel every once in a while, I’m not a history buff and the last novel I read that was set during WWII was Anne Frank’s Diary. So I might not have picked up The Courier if Orenda Books hadn’t sent me a copy, and guys, let me tell you this: I would have missed out! I had planned on reading and reviewing it last month but I didn’t want to get in the way of the tour, so it became my first April read. I did dip in and out of the tour, read some glowing reviews and of course this is an Orenda book and I’ve never been let down by Orenda before so I felt fairly confident that I would like it. But my lovelies, I was wrong… I LOVED it!
The WWII setting makes for a fascinating backdrop to a suspenseful thriller. I don’t really know why I was surprised to find suspense in the pages of The Courier: I assume one does not get nicknamed the “godfather of Nordic Noir” for nothing! This was my first Kjell Ola Dahl novel, but it won’t be my last.
The story starts with Turid in 2015 and continues with a dual timeline, 1942 and 1967, focusing mainly on Ester, a Jewish girl / woman in Norway and Sweden and the mystery of Åse’s murder. Ester is a fabulous character, and so real that I had to remind myself she’s fictional. She’s mysterious, a keeper of secrets, an incredibly strong character, very ballsy but in a very understated, subtle way; she doesn’t go looking for trouble, but when it finds her she faces it head-on. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Ester’s life during and after the war, and finding out what happened to Åse and Gerhard and how that was all connected to their daughter Turid in 2015.
The cover couldn’t be more perfect: it reflects the content of this atmospheric slow-burning novel perfectly; it truly captures its essence. Slow-burning, yes, but never dull, I’m not euphemising here. Mind, this is not an easy read, it takes concentration to keep the timelines and corresponding events sorted in your head, and the mere topic makes it rather heavy. However, it is just so beautifully written that it is well worth your time and focus!
Recommended, and if historical novels make your juices flow: highly recommended!
Many thanks to Orenda Books for sending me this beautiful book! That I was gifted The Courier did not influence my review, all opinions are my own.