Tuesday, August 19, 2008


CCTV footage shows a bank robbery in progress. A man dressed in black puts a gun to the cashier Stine Grette's head. She is told to count to twenty five while Klementsen the manager struggles with the keys to open the ATM and put the money in a black holdall.
He does not do it quickly enough and Stinne is executed. 
Harry Hole becomes part of the investigative team working under the self confident chief of the robbery squad PAS Rune Ivarsson.  
Meanwhile Harry's girlfriend Rakel is in Moscow with her son Oleg fighting a custody battle through the courts with Oleg's father, and Harry accepts an invitation to dinner from Anna, an old flame. Serious complications arise when  Anna is found shot dead in her bed and Harry who has a massive hangover cannot remember anything about  the past twelve hours. 
There is another bank robbery. Harry and his  gifted new partner Beate study the CCTV of the robberies while Harry begins one of his lone ranger investigations into Anna's death but then he starts to receive threatening e-mails. 

This is a superb crime thriller and once again Jo Nesbo weaves several  plot lines through a complex web of red herrings and false trails till almost everything is made clear at the end. I say almost and won't explain because I don't want to spoil things for those who have not read any of the Harry Hole series.

These were published in English and read by me in the incorrect order:
Firstly The Devil's Star number 5 reviewed here.
Secondly The Redbreast number 3 reviewed here.

and now Nemesis number 4.  

Actually reading them in this order was ideal for an impatient person like myself because if they had been published in the correct order I would have had to learn Norwegian or send really threatening e-mails to the publisher demanding a translation in order to find out what had happened in Harry's investigation into .......... No spoilers here, these are a must read series of books.

Jo Nesbo manages when seemingly a crime is solved to produce yet another twist in the tail. He teases us with explanations that seem to resolve matters but simply lead on to other more complicated or simpler solutions, and of course his characters are just so memorable. 

I am sure we have all  come across a few Rune Ivarssons.

'Furthermore Rune Ivarsson had the natural self-confidence that many misinterpret as a leadership quality. In his case, this confidence was based solely on being blessed with a total blindness to his own shortcomings......'

And even a few quasi-Tom Waalers.

'Given Waaler's view on skin colour, it was a paradox for Harry that his colleague spent so much time in the solarium, but perhaps it was true what one wag had said: Waaler wasn't actually a racist. He was just as happy beating up neo-Nazis as blacks.'

And through the character of the mysterious and enigmatic Raskol Baxhet, Jo Nesbo gives us a social commentary and history on the treatment of the gypsy people.

'We have been persecuted by every single regime in Europe. There is no difference between fascists, communists and democrats; the fascists were just a little bit more efficient.'

'In Moravia they cut the left ear off gypsy women, in Bohemia the right.'

But these novels of course lean heavily on the character of Harry who is not just another alcoholic detective, but a much more complex character. He is considered a nuisance by his employers but he is a good cop whose sense of justice leads him in the right direction. His love for Sis, his older sister who has Down's syndrome, Rakel and Oleg, Rakel's son means that at times all seems to come together for Harry until his old friend Jim Beam reappears on the scene.

I don't usually like very long books but Jo Nesbo is an exception and I enjoyed every page and every nuance in the plot because even the minor characters are drawn with such clarity. This was a story I wanted to get to the end [I read it in three days] but did not want it to finish, if you know what I mean. 

There is a lot of information about the author, the books and a very good interview with the author at the official Jo Nesbo website here.
The good news is that there are more untranslated Harry Holes for our future enjoyment. 

Interestingly the first book in the series The Bat Man which was originally published in Norway in 1997 re-entered the Norwegian best seller lists earlier this year. The Bat Man won the Riverton Prize for Best Norwegian crime novel, and the Glass Key for the Best Nordic crime novel of the year. 

The Harry Hole series books still to be translated into English are:

The Bat Man: number 1
The Cockroaches: number 2
The Redeemer: number 6
The Snowman: number 7

In my opinion Jo Nesbo has moved into the top spot in the hierarchy of European crime fiction writers because the three books that are available in English are all wonderful reads with fine translations from Don Bartlett. Let us hope he has the energy to translate the others for us.


Blogger Kerrie said...

You and I could so easily share a bookshelf Norman!
Reading books in the correct order is so difficult when they translate them out of order :-)

2:31 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

If we shared a bookshelf we would need long arms Kerrie! :0)

11:48 PM  

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