Friday, December 20, 2013

Police: A Harry Hole Novel

by Jo Nesbo
Knopf     2013
448 pages      Fiction

I dropped into the middle of the Norwegian Harry Hole series of mysteries with the tenth book, Police. According to the review in the New York Times, I shouldn't have done that. I was confused for quite a while, so I would suggest, along with the Times reviewer, that you begin with Phantom, the book that precedes Police. That being said, if you love dark, twisted mysteries and police procedurals, you are going to love Jo Nesbo and Police. By far, it's the best mystery I read this year.

Harry Hole is an incredibly intuitive police detective, and although he doesn't appear until the middle of the book, his presence fills the pages, and when he finally does show up, the plot thickens so rapidly that the reader is left holding her breath, glancing out the window for intruders, and making sure her husband is secure in the next room. The intensity is awe-inspiring.

There are grisly murders, unexpected deaths, suspenseful moments, and unlikely escapes. At the same time, there is the political maneuvering that one would expect in an urban police department, no matter where the story takes place. The characters are all multidimensional and clearly drawn, but this is one of those books where I needed to keep a list of characters. First of all, they were all introduced in previous books, and then they all have Norwegian names that don't slip off an American tongue--even one with a Norwegian sister-in-law. Bad things keep happening to these interesting characters, and I had to keep scratching them off the character list. As I said before, it is intense.

If you need more than my recommendation, I would suggest that you look over this brief review from Booklist:  "Police officers in Oslo are being murdered by a serial killer with a bizarre agenda: each victim is discovered at a crime scene that mimics the scene of an earlier unsolved murder. Not only that but the new victims all participated in the investigations of the earlier crimes. Is the killer a fellow cop? Working as an off-the-books task force, Harry’s former colleagues—Beate Lønn, Stale Aune, Bjorn Hølm, and Katrine Bratt—set out to find the answers. It’s clear that Chief of Police Mikael Bellman and his henchman, Truls Berntsen, are dirty, but are they killers?" Hope that piqued your interest!

The reviewer in the Boston Globe says that Nesbo "never fails to surprise" just like his hero, Harry Hole never fails to surprise.
He goes on: "It’s a dizzyingly taut feat of storytelling. The murders are grisly, gruesome, and gory without overwhelming the narrative, and Nesbo deftly juggles multiple plotlines using terrific sleights of hand to gradually reveal where they might intersect while lovingly rounding out each of his characters, heroes and villains alike." I couldn't have said it better myself.

P.S., The book is extremely well translated. 

Jo Nesbo's website:

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