Roger Brown is the most successful headhunter of Norway. And he is an art thief. One day he meets the perfect candidate, Clas Greve, for an open position in a technology company. Greve is also the owner of an expensive painting. But not for long because of Roger Brown. Who soon finds himself as the target of a deadly hunt...
Headhunters is well written with a lot of action after a slow start. Especially the scene with the toilet cabin is unforgettable even though it is unappetizing. The story itself I found too constructed and unrealistic. Plus it's probably the first book where I disliked all of the main characters.
Quotes from the book
"My God, man, you applied for this job! What you should have done was to set up straw man to tip us off and then pretend you knew nothing about it when we contacted you. A top man has to be headhunted, not arrive ready-killed and all carved up."
The world is full of people who pay serious money for bad pictures by good artists.
"I forgive a lack of talent in most people, I suppose because I have been dealt so little myself", Greve said, barely moistening his thin lips with the champagne. "But not in artists. We, the untalented, make a living by the sweat of our brow and pay them to play on our behalf. Fair enough, that's the way it is. But then they have to play bloody well."
He was lazy. But keen to get rich. And so the clash between Ove Kjikerud's desires and personal attributes continued; he was a criminal and an arms collector with violent tendencies, but he actually wanted to live a life of peace and quiet. He wanted, nay, almost begged for friends, but people seemed to sense that something was not right with him, and kept their distance. And he was a devout, incurable romantic who now sought love with prostitutes.
My goal is to induce the candidate to admit he is bluffing, that he is unsuitable for the job. If he can get through the nine steps [of interrogation] without confessing this, there is reason to assume that the candidate himself really believes he has the necessary qualifications. And those are the candidates I am looking for.
My not inconsiderable experience is that women seldom apply for jobs they are not qualified – and they prefer to be overqualified – to do. And even then it is the easiest task in the world to make her break down and confess she hasn't got what is required.
"I was taken prisoner and tortured during an anti-drugs campaign in Suriname." - "Sounds exotic. But you kept your mouth shut?" Clas Greve smiled. "Shut? I chatted away like an old fishwife. Cocaine barons don't play at interrogation."
"You haven't talked about your marriage." - "I've talked about the important things", said Greve.
"No one punishes thieving harder than thieves."
Not even a saint could scream like Diana. Diana's scream was a pained enjoyment, an arrow-point in the eardrum that sent shivers throughout your body. It was a lament and an enduring moan, a tone that merely rose and fell, like a model aeroplane. So piercing that after the first act of love I had woken up with a ringing in my ears, and after three weeks of lovemaking I thought I could detect the first symptoms of tinnitus.
I studied the four shiny faces while thinking about how dearly I wished I had a hand grenade at this very moment.
"Giving up a chase is never an option for types like me. I'm like my dog, a result of genes and training. Risk doesn't exist. Once fixed up, I'm a heat-seeking missile that cannot be stopped, that basically seeks its own destruction."
I could fear myself getting the giggles; now and then fear has that effect on me.
It was a quarter past one, five hours since I had got up, and I had already managed to survive my wife's attempt on my life unscathed, dump the body of my partner in a lake, rescue said body, then alive and kicking, just to see my alive and kicking partner try to shoot me. Whereupon, with a flukey shot, I had seen to it that he became a corpse again and I a murderer.
[...] it struck me that I – a person who in the course of his more than thirty years on this planet had assembled enough student friends, ex-girlfriends, colleagues and business connections for a network that filled two megabytes in Outlook – had one single acquaintance I could trust. A woman I had known, strictly speaking, for only three weeks. Well, shagged for three weeks.
I balanced the toilet lid on the top of my head, put my hands on either side of the hole and gingerly lowered myself. It was an unreal feeling to sink into crap, to feel the light pressure of men's shit against my body as I drilled my way down.
I carefully hunkered down. My ears full of shit and silence. I forced myself to breathe through the cardboard tube. It worked. No need to go any deeper now. Of course it would have been a really symbolic way to die with my mouth and ears filled, drowning in Ove's and my own faeces, but I felt no desire to die an ironic death, I wanted to live.
Actually it was a paradox: I had never had less to live for and yet I had never wished for life more.
So this is how I was to die, between the jaws of a fat, ugly lump of a dog. It was depressing, to put it mildly.
He was right that I was playing dumb. And it was right as well that he was dumb.
The worst thing about being fully conscious was that I could imagine what would happen if he found me soaked in petrol.
It is strange how quickly you get used to cutting people up.
I opened the fridge, thinking it was the first day I had woken up as a murderer.
"I persuaded Diana to have an abortion simply because I didn't want to share her with anyone. Have you ever heard anything so childish? Pure, unadulterated jealousy towards an unborn baby."
"I think I'll go back to the original plan after all. Shooting you in the stomach. Have I told you about stomach shots? How the bullet bores through your spleen causing the gastric acid to leak out and burn its way through the rest of the intestines? Then I have to wait until you beg me to kill you. And you will, Roger."
"Sometimes the headhunter forgets that the head he is hunting can think."