Jonas Jonasson’s debut novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was the book I read for Sweden for my challenge to read a book from every country in the world. I enjoyed the book immensely and it’s one of my favourites of the challenge so far. Jonasson has since released a sequel to the book, which I have yet to read. In the meantime I’ve read his third novel, Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All.
Its premise is even zanier than that of his first novel. It revolves around the receptionist of a seedy hotel who befriends (and later falls in love with) a priest. Together they devise an untoward business strategy that involves the hitman of the title. All goes well for the new couple and their new business, until the hitman finds Jesus.
A zany premise, wit, insight, and colourful characters are clear markers of this author’s work, and they’re all to be found in Hitman Anders. However, they don’t hit the mark quite as strongly as The Hundred-Year-Old Man did. It’s not fair to constantly draw comparisons, but it’s quite inevitable when it comes to an author’s work, especially when the tone is so similar and the style so distinct. Besides, I enjoyed The Hundred Year-Old Man so much, that my expectations were high.
The characters aren’t quite as fully crafted or deeply delved into in Hitman Anders. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that they’re constantly referred to by their roles or nicknames: the receptionist, the priest, the count, the countess. These generic monikers somewhat distance readers from the characters – particularly the priest and receptionist – although it does add to the humour.
We know who the antagonists are in this story, but at times it’s not clear who we should be rooting for. The centrality of the priest and receptionist will have you believing it’s them, but the newfound good nature of the hitman will make your favour veer towards him instead. Perhaps, just as the characters ultimately try being good and kind towards everyone, the author similarly wants us to feel a little warmth for all those who populate his story.