The set-up is intriguing. Sheldon Horowitz, an 82-year old former Korean War sniper has relocated from NYC to Oslo, to be near his only living relative, granddaughter Rhea. Sheldon audibly witnesses a mother pitilessly murdered in Rhea’s apartment, whilst hiding in the closet with the woman’s 9-year old son. The killer is an experienced brute from the Balkan’s ethnic wars and the 9-year old is his son. Unsurprisingly, the killer wants the boy back. Sheldon is short on the operative details, but his street smarts tell him he needs to keep this boy hidden until the gentle Norwegian police can catch-up with the urgent implications of this case. Thus, octogenarian and 2nd grader go on the lam. Sounds good…but the book doesn’t deliver.
The only character that is developed is Sheldon. The police chief, the boy, the killer, others…could have been interesting, but they aren’t. The thrills in this thriller are as docile and the author, Derek B. Miller’s, description of the average Norwegian’s outlook. You will likely need to read a classic Scandinavian Noir novel to restore your faith in the genre after this one.
That said, book does have its merits. Sheldon’s character is expertly drawn, particularly via recalled discussions with his son Saul, a Vietnam casualty, and current dialogue with his long dead NYC pal Bill. Sheldon does not go out of his way to endear himself. He is cantankerous and summarily dismisses any notion he has no use for, regardless of its origin. Mr. Miller does a good job emphasizing Sheldon’s Jewishness. If you are, or know lots of Jews, you will recognize Sheldon as the type of Jew that is becoming more scarce. Fully Jewish, but in no way insular, i.e., confined in an ethnic neighborhood. It may not be intended, but in this way the book does ever so lightly touch on the works of the all-pervading, great assimilator. Sheldon, a red-blooded American Jew, joins the Marine Corps, packed with its southern Christians, serves and returns home as the same red-blooded American Jew. Then, little Norway, always accepting the migrant du joir…Albanian, Somali, Iraqi, Syrian, etc…and ever confident that it will remain Norwegian.