In a thrilling combination, singer-songwriter Patti Smith is narrating the new audio edition of Jo Nesbø’s latest thriller Blood on Snow. Nesbø is a musician and songwriter himself, and the two artists are mutual admirers of each other’s work. Smith has previously only narrated her own work, Just Kids, which won the National Book Award.
Blood on Snow is the story of a contract killer named Olav in 1970’s Oslo, who falls in love with his boss’s wife (Oslo’s crime kingpin) and becomes a target himself. EW has an exclusive excerpt from both the audiobook, narrated by Smith, and the text, which you can read below. Blood on Snow hits shelves April 7.
An exclusive excerpt of Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø:
‘I want you to make it look like a break-in, Olav.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Because it needs to look like something else, Olav, not what it really is. The police always get upset when civilians get killed. They put a little too much effort into their investigation. And when a woman who has a lover is found dead, everything points to her husband. Obviously, in ninety percent of cases this is perfectly justified.’
‘Just something I read, Sir.’
Okay, we don’t usually call people ‘Sir’ in Norway, no matter how superior they are. With the exception of the royal family, of course, who are addressed as Your Royal Highness. Daniel Hoffmann would probably have preferred that. The title of ‘Sir’ was something Hoffmann had imported from England, together with his leather furniture, red mahogany bookcases and leather-bound books full of the old, yellowing, unread pages of what were presumably English classics. But how should I know, I only recognised the usual names: Dickens, Brontë, Austen. Either way, the dead authors made the air in his office so dry that I always end up coughing up a fine spray of lung cells long after my visits. I don’t know what it was about England that fascinated Hoffmann, but I knew he’d spent a short time there as a student, and came home with his case stuffed full of tweed suits, ambition and an affected Oxford English with a Norwegian twang. No degree or certificates, just a belief that money is everything. And that if you’re going to succeed in business, you have to concentrate on markets where the competition is weakest. Which in Oslo at that time meant prostitution. I think his analysis really was that simple. Daniel Hoffmann had worked out that in a market run by charlatans, idiots and amateurs, even a distinctly average man could end up king of the castle. It was just a matter of having the necessary moral flexibility required to recruit and send young women out into prostitution on a daily basis. And, after giving the matter due consideration, Daniel Hoffmann concluded that he did. When he expanded his business into the heroin market a few years later, Daniel Hoffmann was already a man who regarded himself as a success. And since the heroin market in Oslo up to then had been run by charlatans, idiots and amateurs, as well as junkies, and since it turned out that Hoffmann also possessed sufficient moral flexibility to despatch young people into a narcotic hell, this became another success. The only problem that Hoffmann now faced was the Fisherman. The Fisherman was a fairly recent competitor in the heroin market, and, as it turned out, he was no idiot. God knows, there were enough addicts in Oslo for both of them, but they were each trying their best to wipe the other off the face of the earth. Why? Well, I assume that neither of them was born with my innate talent for subordination. And things get a bit messy when people like that, who have to be in charge, who have to sit on the throne, find out that their women are being unfaithful. I think the Daniel Hoffmanns of this world would have better and simpler lives if they could learn to look the other way, and maybe accept that their wives had an affair or two.
‘I was thinking of taking a holiday over Christmas,’ I said. ‘Asking someone to come with me, and go away for a while.’
‘A travelling companion? I didn’t think you knew anyone that intimately, Olav? That’s one of the things I like about you, you know. That you haven’t got anyone to tell secrets to.’ He smiled and tapped the ash from his cigar. I didn’t get upset, he meant well. The word Cohiba was printed on the cigar band. I read somewhere that at the turn of the century cigars were the most common Christmas present in the western hemisphere. Would that be a good idea? I didn’t even know if she smoked. I hadn’t seen her smoking at work, anyway.
‘I haven’t asked yet,’ I said. ‘But…’
‘I’ll pay you five times your usual fee,’ Hoffmann said. ‘So you can take the person in question on a never-ending Christmas holiday afterwards if you want.’
I tried to do the maths. But, like I said, I’m pretty useless.
‘Here’s the address,’ Hoffmann said.
I had worked for him for four years without knowing where he lived. But, then, why should I have known? He didn’t know where I lived. And I’d never met his new wife either, just heard Pine going on about how hot she was, and how much he’d be able to rake in if he had a bitch like that on the streets.
‘She’s on her own in the house most of the day,’ Hoffmann said. ‘At least that’s what she tells me. Do it whatever way you like, Olav. I trust you. The least I know, the better. Understood?’
I nodded. The less I know, I thought.
‘Yes, Sir, understood.’
‘Let me think about it till tomorrow, Sir.’
Hoffmann raised one of his neatly manicured eyebrows. I don’t know much about evolution and stuff like that, but didn’t Darwin say there were only six universal facial expression for human emotions? I’ve no idea if Hoffmann had six human emotions, but I think what he was hoping to communicate with his raised eyebrow – in contrast to what he would have meant by an open-mouthed stare – was mild annoyance combined with reflection and intelligence.
‘I’ve just given you the details, Olav. And now – after that – you’re thinking about refusing?’
The threat was barely audible. No, actually, if that was the case then I probably wouldn’t have picked up on it, I’m completely tone-deaf when it comes to noticing the undertones and subtexts in what people say. So we can assume that the threat was obvious enough. Daniel Hoffmann had clear blue eyes and black eyelashes. If he was a girl I’d have said it was makeup. I don’t know why I mention that, it’s got nothing to do with anything.
‘I didn’t have time to respond before you gave me the details, Sir,’ I said. ‘You’ll have an answer by this evening, if that’s okay, Sir?’
He looked at me. Blew cigar smoke in my direction. I sat there with my hands in my lap. Fiddling with the brim of the labourer’s cap I didn’t actually have.
‘By six,’ he said. ‘That’s when I leave the office.’