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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Book Review: Police by Jo Nesbo

ThisPolice: A Harry Hole Novel is such a hard book to review because even the smallest detail about the content – the way the story unfolds (which can be very persuasive in a review) – runs the risk of spoiling what is an absolute cracker of an addition to the Harry Hole canon. All I can say is that the narrative didn’t begin as I anticipated at all, even though it follows on from the events in the last book, The Leopard, and it’s this defying of expectations that sets the standard and pace for the rest of the tale. As Police opens, we’re back in Oslo, there are grisly murders a-plenty only, this time, the stakes are even higher as it’s members of the force that are being killed. Not only that, but their deaths are a brutal reenactment of cold cases – cases that the new victims were once assigned to solve. As the body count grows, so does the pressure and the fear – who will be next and why?

Never has the act of reading been so analogous to riding a roller coaster as you are lifted to great heights before being flung into complete, heart-stopping despair; there are twists and turns, false corners and such sharply angled ones, you sustain the equivalent of literary whiplash reading this book.

What is also evident from the moment the story starts, is that you’re in the hands of a master. There’s a sense in which, as gruesome as this bloody tale of revenge and thwarted intentions is, Nesbo is having fun with the reader… He is playing mind games with us and they damn well work. Persuading us into one way of thinking only to reveal another, Police, perhaps more than any other of the Hole books, allows us to identify with the investigation, gives us access to the minds and feelings of the frustrated investigators as we share their experiences, concerns and suspicions. Nesbo not only leads us up one garden path, that he has cobbled, bordered with plants, lit brightly or plunged into darkness, strewing it with characters we expect to find and those we do not, he then strands us in the middle of what we quickly understand isn’t a path, it’s a labyrinth. A psychological, emotional and physical one that familiar characters and new ones inhabit with varying degrees of comfort and control. There is never a dull moment in this tale, nor is there an opportunity to catch your breath. Not for the faint-hearted, this latest (and I hope not final as has been rumored) addition to the Hole series is simply brilliant.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

The fifth book in the Harry Hole sequence, The Devil’s Star, is quite simply, a cracker. Fast-paced from beginning to end, it is brutal, unrelenting and always fascinating. I cannot put these Harry Hole books down and know when I pick one up, I am in for long nights and an emotional ride – The Devil’s Star was no different.

The novel commences in a steamy summer in Olso when a young woman’s body is found with a finger severed and a small ruby five-pointed star is secreted in her body. This being a NeThe Devil's Star (Harry Hole, #5)sbo novel, it’s inevitable that where there’s one body, others will follow. Soon there’s a trail of brutality and bloodshed that Harry and his team have to try and stop. But this novel isn’t only about bodies in apartments; it’s also about skeletons in closets and Harry’s private and professional life spiralling out of control. In trying to come to grips with the loss of fellow detective, Ellen Gjetlen (who met her death in the brilliant third book, Redbreast), something he feels responsible for, Harry spirals back into alcoholism and the reader recoils and gasps as he stumbles from flashes of brilliance and terrific work to dejection, loss of control and the demon drink. The way Nesbo portrays the thrall of alcoholism, the seductive and terrible allure of the bottle is unlike anything I’ve read before and you ache for Harry but also understand why he gives in to its power.

On top a difficult case, Harry also has to deal with the threat of his colleague, the charismatic and dangerous Tom Waller, whom he suspects of crimes far worse than those he’s encountering as they involve betrayal of the worst kind. Add to that that he’s about to be sacked from the force, and the plot becomes thicker than treacle and just as dark – you never see what’s coming. That’s the beauty of Nesbo’s books, you cannot second guess the story, or predict Harry’s actions.

Though tautly plotted, I found the motivation for the main crime less convincing than usual, and the final scene between Harry and the killer a tiny bit overplayed. Having said that, the enthralling cat and mouse game between Harry and his nemesis that begins the moment you open the book more than compensated for this. Brilliant, the rush towards the climax and how this particular storyline is resolved is breath-taking and utterly believable.

Nesbo would have to be among the finest writing in this style – the anti-hero hero who is more flawed than faultless, clever yet vulnerable and with a heart of gold. Harry is someone who is capable of fixing everyone else’s problems but not his own; who inspires love and often returns it only to discover his greatest love will always triumph and thus ensure his relationships are always doomed. The Norwegian setting (and others) is so beautifully drawn, it too becomes a beguiling yet seedy character to which you long to return, no matter what the reading cost – mostly sleepless nights and eagerness for the next book.

A fabulous addition to a terrific series.

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Book Review: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo


The Snowman (Harry Hole, #7)

I didn’t simply read this book by Jo Nesbo and featuring his taciturn and apparently difficult to love detective, Harry Hole, I devoured it. I tucked myself on a chair one cold Sunday aft

ernoon and basically didn’t lift my head unless it was to put food or drink into it. I supped on words, a cracker of a plot and some wonderful characters.

Hole’s rel

ationship with Rakel is over. His reputation at work as a brilliant but unconventional and difficult detective looks set to ruin him. Enter a strange letter that is at once both threat and

dare and which invites Hole to guess who “made the Snowman”. In order to do that, Hole first has to work out exactly what the “snowman” (apart from the obvious) might be.

When a series of women disappear and, apart from one or two whose grisly remains are discovered in shocking circumstances, and their absence is linked to the building of a snowman, Hole begins to make the impossible connections – connections that span years, inconceivable unions and implausible motives. Joined in his hunt for the killer by a gung-ho female from Bergen who’s strong credentials compliment her zeal, Hole finds himself with a good team pitted against an intelligent and ruthless killer who, while he treats his female victims with cold brutality, with objectivity and scorn, is clearly acting out some terrible personal demons as well.

Like all Hole’s cases, this one becomes personal for the detective – only in ways he never could have imagined.

The prose in this book is at once poetic and awful. It conjures up such a frisson in the reader. I could feel my heart racing, my skin was creeping as I absorbed the story – from the beautiful descriptions of the falling snow, secret and gentle, to the God-awful blood bath that each murder and crime scene becomes. The tension builds and builds. Just as Hole has physically changed in this book – he is leaner, meaner, denuded of hair and spare flesh, there’s a sense in which this story is as well. It’s raw and terrifying.

While I guessed the killer not too far into the book, it didn’t spoil the plot or story for me, on the contrary, it enhanced the entire reading experience, which had me wondering, was this Nesbo’s intention? In that way, the reader is like the killer, watching Hole blunder, stumble in the dark and snow, alight on one possibility only to have it torn away. Knowing what Hole did not built the suspense in fabulous ways and did not take one shred of excitement or reading pleasure away from the conclusion or denouement.

I so enjoyed this book I immediately grabbed the Phantom and already know that I’m in for another reading treat (and scare!). Outstanding…

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