This relatively slim novel is a stand-alone from Jo Nesbo, the creator of the great series featuring Norwegian homicide detective Harry Hole. The protagonist is a contract killer named Olav who works for a crime boss in Oslo. Olav is one of the best "fixers" in the business and approaches his work with a cold-blooded efficiency until he is given the job of killing a woman who has taken a lover, thus infuriating her husband.
In preparation for the hit, Olav watches the woman for several days from an apartment across the street from hers and finds himself feeling sympathy and some affection for his target. This doubtless violates virtually all of the guidelines in the Hitman's Handbook, but of course, it's great for the reader because of the conflict it creates in Olav.
The story is narrated by Olav, and the reader can't help but feel a tinge of sympathy for the guy, in spite of his profession. The choices that he makes will have significant consequences for himself as well as for his targets, and that's really all one can say about the plot without giving away significant developments.
One can say that this book is up to the high standards that Nesbo has set in the Harry Hole series. As always, the characters are well drawn, and the setting--here, Olso in the dead of winter--is rendered very well. The moral issues are also very interesting, and this is a book that should appeal to any serious fan of crime fiction.
Parenthetically, I had the opportunity to hear Nesbo at a book event this week while he's touring for the new Harry Hole novel, The Thirst. He's a very interesting guy and it was a lot of fun listening to him talk about the origin of the series and about his own life as a writer. If he makes it to your town, he's definitely worth seeing.