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Knife by Jo Nesbø

I’d heard some rumours about this book prior to its publication (about the direction the plot might take) and was both longing and dreading to read it as I have adored this series. As it was, my concerns regarding the plot were allayed (it’s excellent), but in some ways, for a good part of the book, I did feel ambivalent about the story-telling. Let me explain. For the first time ever in a Harry Hole/Nesbø novel, I found myself becoming bored with parts of writing and even confused. I was skimming bits and wondering if I’d missed something or what the reason for focussing on a particular person or another analepsis might be. I really struggled around the halfway mark. This was not my usual reading experience when it comes to this series and there were moments I felt quite disappointed.

Then, suddenly, it all changed. Bits I thought mere distractions made sense, the epilogue resonates in an understated but nonetheless terrific way and the alcoholic detective we’ve come to know and love resurfaces with a vengeance. The ending is superb and there are some genuine WTF?! moments.

So, what’s the novel about? Without giving any spoilers, the proper opening is a cracker and sets a very disturbing scene. Harry wakes up with a blistering hangover and covered in blood. But, he has no memory whatsoever of what has happened. When someone dear to him is found brutally murdered, all eyes, including Harry’s, turn to him. As the investigation proceeds, people from Harry’s past – criminals and friends – either take advantage of his fresh vulnerability or seek to help Harry solve this very personal crime no matter what it takes.

The last parts of the book more than made up for some of the distractions and sluggishness of the earlier bits. The only exception is the over-reliance and continuing focus on playlists. What is it about some male crime writers particularly (looking at you Peter Robinson) that they insist on including (ad nauseum), what tracks their antagonist is listening to at various points and/or include conversations about various artists? It is so damn distracting and takes you away from the narrative. At least with this book the focus on one song and even a genre of music becomes extremely relevant – and it’s almost possible to forgive all the the many, many references to music because of this. I should also add that even when I use terms like “distraction” or even “sluggishness” (as in what seem to be unnecessary details that slow the pace down), never is the writing anything but excellent.

I hope there is more to come in this series, I really do but if not, at least I know I can rely on Nesbø for a highly entertaining, page-turning and thought-provoking read, no matter who the star might be.

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