The Headhunters by Jo Nesbo


Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 9780307948687

Headhunters introduces us to the charming villain Roger Brown, a man who seems to have it all: he is Norway’s most successful headhunter, married to the beautiful gallery owner Diana, owns a magnificent house – and is living larger than he should. Meanwhile, he is playing at the dangerous game of art theft. At a gallery opening, his wife introduces him to the Dutchman Clas Greve. Not only is Greve the perfect candidate for the CEO position of the GPS company Pathfinder that Roger Brown is recruiting for; he is also in possession of ”The Calydonian Boar Hunt” by Peter Paul Rubens, one of the most sought-after paintings in modern art history. Roger sees his chance to become financially independent, and starts planning his biggest hit ever. But soon, he runs into trouble – and it’s not financial problems that are threatening to knock him over this time… The winding, explosive plot takes us from society’s financial and industrial elite to an underworld of contract killers and swindlers, offering Nesbo’s variations on the most spectacular murders, car chases and escapes that the genre has to offer on the way.

When Headhunters was published in 2008, Jo Nesbø established the Harry Hole Foundation – a charity to reduce illiteracy among children in the third world. All proceeds from Headhunters, in all editions and formats including the movie adaptation, go directly to the Harry Hole Foundation.

Yellow Bird Productions (the company behind the adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium and Henning Mankell’s Wallander) produced the Scandinavian movie adaptation of Headhunters. The film premiered in Oslo in August 2011, and the film distribution rights are sold to more than 30 countries, with an American remake in the works.
In March 2013 Headhunters was awarded ‘Best Thriller’ at Empire Awards.

Headhunters was awarded the 2008 Norwegian Book Club Prize for Best Novel of the Year.

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Jo speaks about Headhunters

A trailer on Headhunters from Jo’s Swedish publisher, Piratförlaget

A trailer on Headhunters from Jo’s German publisher, Ullstein

A trailer on Headhunters from Jo’s Norwegian publisher, Aschehoug

“A twisty, plot-driven Hitchcockian thriller /…/ Nesbo delivers one shock after the other, culminating with a doozy of a switcheroo at the finish. It’s gripping reading.”
Booklist (US)

“There’s a reason Jo Nesbø has been dubbed “the next Stieg Larsson“: his gripping Harry Hole detective series, including this year’s The Snowman, read like cinematic thrillers. The pace of Nesbø’s novels draws comparisons to Larsson, but his pithy, intellectual prose distinguishes Headhunters from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. With Nabokovian skill, Nesbø cunningly manipulates the reader to sympathize with an unsympathetic protagonist in this invigorating must-read.
Newsweek (US)

“If you don’t know Nesbø, it’s time to get with it.”
USA Today (US)

“Like [Stieg] Larsson, Nesbø explores the darkest criminal minds with grim delight and puts his killers where you least expect to find them. . . . [and] his novels are maddeningly addictive.”
Vanity Fair (US)

“Chances are you’ll be hooked . . . as Nesbø lays down a trail rich in Nordic atmosphere and in character-driven development . . . Ultimately, though, what sets Nesbø apart is his ability to keep the pages turning with such intellectual dexterity.”
Newsday (US)

“Nesbø has a horrormeister’s flair for transforming natural scenes into ominous situations.”
The New York Times Book Review (US)

“Irresistibly addictive. . . . This is reading as you experienced it in childhood, without any gap between eye and mind, but with the added pleasures that adult plots and adult characters can bring. . . . Brilliantly conceived, carefully worked out, and complicatedly satisfying.”
Slate (US)

“Nesbø’s books have a serious, socially significant heft, as well as a confident (even cocky) narrative stride that is unmatched.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch (US)

“Nesbø’s pace is unerring, and the way he builds up suspense will incite Pavlovian page-turning.”
Time Out New York (US)

*starred review*
“Nesbø takes a break from his Harry Hole detective series . . . with this stellar stand-alone caper.. . . . [The] dizzying reversals of fortune and situations that would be over-the-top in lesser hands make for a delightful roller-coaster ride. Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard fans will be delighted.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“This stand-alone gives us a brilliant array of variously flawed human beings involved in a tale of intricate plotting, excellent characterization, made-for-the-movies effects and images, and a multifaceted surprise ending. /…/ this is a true thriller from start to finish. Sure to be enjoyed by devotees of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and even the post–Cold War oeuvre of John le Carré.”
Library Journal (US)

“a darkly comic caper story”
Lincoln Journal Star (US)

“The result is a masterclass in obfuscation and psychological parrying. /…/ Nesbo has that rare talent for turning the tables on readers, confounding expectations and revealing only what is intended.”
The Independent (UK)

“With Henning Mankell having written his last Wallander novel and Stieg Larsson no longer with us, I have had to make the decision on whom to confer the title of best current Nordic writer of crime fiction. . . . I hesitate no longer. [Nesbø] wins. . . . This is crime writing of the highest order.”
The Times (London)

Headhunters rapidly turns into a gripping read with strangely authentic characters, who are as dislikeable as they are loveable… Nesbo made these characters real, troubled and emotionally engaging. And, what’s more, this book is a million miles away from his serial character, Harry Hole. Don’t be fooled though, there is plenty of violence and action here too. Nesbo just takes his time, lulling us into a sense of false security before bringing the whole delicate chandelier crashing down. Technically, the novel works brilliantly. /…/ I got lost in this book and hours skipped by as the chapters got shorter, more tense and the pace quickened to an almost unbearable crescendo… A thoroughly satisfying read.”
The Independent (Ireland)

“Nesbo is a master storyteller, gripping the reader from the first page and ratcheting up the suspense in a thrilling finale with several satisfying twists.”
Daily Express (UK)

“Nesbo proves there’s life beyond his dour detective with his pithy, thrill a minute tale Headhunters, set in the cut-throat world of executive placement. /…/ I truly enjoyed this fast paced and at times extremely tense romp – it reminded me very much of Douglas Kennedy /…/ Plus like Kennedy, Nesbo employs the first person narrative so you really share in the roller-coaster ride of his character’s story. The twists and turns in Headhunters will keep you hooked from the first line to the last. /…/ A terrific book with an ending you might not expect.”
TVNZ (New Zeeland)

“Nesbø knows how to create suspense. And he plainly demonstrates that in Headhunters, a mind-blowing story that captivates the reader from the very first page. /…/ Nesbø’s humor has simply flowed in the absence of [Harry] Hole. He has found a delightfully laconic, hard-boiled tone in Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett’s tracks, which triumphs exactly where it should: when circumstances are the worst, the bullets zing by and the corpses pile up. He also provides glimpses of cultural depths: art history is present and in one particular get away-scene I think Nesbø is even channeling August Strindberg. All in all, it’s entertaining, sharp and suspenseful. And with an interesting, twisted love story as the plot’s engine.”
Dagens Nyheter (Sweden)

”This book is one you absolutely have to read… The outrageous storytelling is so stimulating, it makes James Ellroy look like a boy scout and Bret Easton Ellis like a sunday school boy.”
Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)

“Superior, ingenious and even credible… Hats off for the Norwegian rogue who obviously knows his stuff. From heavy crime novels to a playful appropriation of the genre.”
Weekendavisen (Denmark)

“Nesbø can out-write most of his Scandinavian colleagues … Headhunters is cleverly written and effectively composed, and you can easily devour it in one ravishing read.”
Nordjyske Stiftstidende (Denmark)

Tarantino meets the Coen brothers in Nesbø’s crime novel.”
Politiken (Denmark)

“…a raging, talented and clever con comedy.”
Jyllandsposten (Denmark)

“…a breathtaking thriller with fraud and murder in international settings, and Jo Nesbø can both maintain the suspense and store some cunning surprises.”
Metro XPress (Denmark)

“Suspense, genuine creepiness, macabre murders and a great deal of humor… One of this years best.”
Vejle Amts Folkeblad (Denmark)

Headhunters has everything that makes a good crime novel: Strange murders, inventive disappearing acts and above all brilliant fraud for all you’re worth.”
Bogrummet (Denmark)

”…a highly entertaining, first-rate crime novel, where Nesbo uses his entire register of narrative techniques and tricks to tell a story that is wilder and more zany than anything he has ever written before.”
Dagbladet (Norway)

”…a safe investment for anyone looking for a suspenseful summer read of top-notch quality.”
Verdens Gang (Norway)

”…while this rather unlikely, entertaining and at times both humorous and imaginative story snakes its way forward, toward its inexorably tragic outcome, the reader is glued to the pages like gum to the street. /…/ With Headhunters, Nesbo has accomplished an easily digested, but nevertheless brilliant and elegant thriller.”
Dagsavisen (Norway)

“A brilliantly told modern-day adventure.”
Bergens Tidende (Norway)

“A sparkling Jo Nesbo pokes fun at the nouveaux riches and serves up the most beastly submersion in Norwegian history.”
Fædrelandsvennen (Norway)

“A fast-paced, elegantly plotted, and truly macabre crime novel…”
Tønsbergs blad (Norway)


Headhunters (Excerpt)