Cover design and illustration by
Fjeldheim & Partners/Bjørn Kulseth
HARRY HOLE BOOK 10
Published: 6 June 2013
Note: English translation, with directly translated title: Police, will be published in September.
On the cover:
In the hospital a critically injured man lies in a coma. The room is guarded by the police, and no one is told what the name of the mysterious patient is. Meanwhile, policemen are being found killed at the scene of old, unsolved, murders. The police stand without any evidence and on top of that are missing their best investigator. In the hospital the patient is showing signs of regaining consciousness.
The tag line under Nesbø's name translates as "Harry Hole is back". I guess it would have been impossible to keep that under wraps, but in a way it's a major spoiler for the novel. But Nesbø seems to be very well aware of what was going to happen when he wrote this novel, and he uses that this is a comeback for Hole, after the events of Ghost (Gjenferd), to great effect. And here's a natural place for this warning, that this review had to contain:
Do not read this book without reading Ghost (Gjenferd) first.
You see, this is really a sequel to Ghost (Gjenferd). If you haven't read that, now is the time to do so while you wait for this to be released. (Assuming you are waiting for the English translation.)
It says a lot about this book that just acknowledging it is a Harry Hole book is a spoiler, and it's not easy writing a spoiler free review of it. But I did make a decision that I would have spoiler free reviews here, so that is what I am going to do. Even if having spoilers means I could write this in a third of the time, and that I sometimes have to be vaguer than I would have liked to.
One of Nesbø's strengths lies in his ability to misdirect the reader. That is something he really excels at here. And it's not just the little things either, there are huge plotpoints in this book that will lure the reader to think they are going down a road they are in reality not even near.
Nesbø does this so incredibly well here, it's really a masterclass in almost telling someone something - just letting them add that little bit of detail themselves - and making them believe things are different to what they are. There isn't any lying to the reader, no sudden "pop-up" of solutions that the reader had not seen before, it's all in there. But sometimes not in the way you thought.
Being a Crime/Murder Mystery novel, it's pretty important (, at least to me,) that there is some level of suspense. As you probably have already gathered, there's plenty of that in Nesbø's misdirecting. But there is also a lot of it in the more straightforward events happening in this story.
Nesbø is very good at building up tension, and he really drags you into the middle of things and lets you experience them with the characters of the novel. Sometimes you almost wish he didn't get you so close to what is happening, there are things described here that can make for unpleasant reading for those who are in any way squeamish. Not that it veers into Horror territory, but Nesbø doesn't shy away from the fact that murder is not something pleasant.
The Mystery elements are of course essential to a good Crime novel. And since this is a Murder Mystery where the main characters are police officers, that is supplied by investigating the murders that have happened. The mystery, or mysteries, surrounding who is, or are, the killers here is very well handled. I feel I repeat myself with the misdirection mention, but I think you'll understand why if you ever read this novel.
The situation surrounding the investigation(s) are also constructed to bring some tension to the story. Once you do have a real grip on who is doing what, that doesn't mean the tension has left the story. Nesbø continues to serve up uncertainties and thrills until the end.
Nesbø has combined high levels of tension and suspense with a narrative that moves forward pretty quickly. There are usually several elements in play at once here, especially in the beginning, and if one of them is at somewhat of a standstill there's movement in another one. This makes for a novel that is a fast paced read that is hard to put down.
I've already mentioned that the main characters are police officers. Not all of them are, but most of them. And those that aren't are connected to the police in very natural ways.
Harry Hole is of course in the novel his name is on the cover, and false advertising is against the law in Norway. But I am actually not going to say anything about what he does, and what happens to him, in this novel at all. That specific character arc will be much more satisfying if you discover it wholly on your own, in my opinion.
Hole is not the only character in the book of course. There are several other important players in this story. What may be most satisfying to many is that two of them are female police officers, and that they both play a vital role in what happens.
There's other characters as well here. Many of them will be familiar to those who have read previous Harry Hole novels, but they are supplemented by some new arrivals. The character gallery here is really good, - another highlight of the novel. Nesbø handles the diverse cast really well, and he gives each of them a distinct personality of their own. And much more importantly they all seem to be well rounded and realistic, even though since this is fiction they may exist on the outliers of people you'd normally expect to meet.
This novel is set in Oslo, a city I have spent quite a lot of time in, seeing as I never have lived more than a two hour train-ride away, and my grandparents used to live there. My brother still lives not far outside the city. Nesbø gets the feel of Oslo across very nicely. What you get in this story is how the city, and to an extent Norway, is. He also makes use of the fact that Norway has very few murders in the narrative.
Harry Hole is a different kind of hero than the American or English investigator. He lives in a society that in many ways are different from US or English society, and Nesbø's writing reflects that. As a Norwegian myself I can say with great confidence that even though he has had international success he hasn't changed how he writes. This is still Norwegian Crime, with all the little details that separates that from Crime written anywhere else.
I feel I have been rambling on more than enough now. This hasn't been easy to keep spoiler free, and it has been made even more difficult by there really not being much left to do after that than to try to avoid just gushing about how great Nesbø does things in this novel.
Nesbø just seems to get better and better as a crime writer. This is the tenth Harry Hole novel, and in some ways they all lead up to this. This is a bit more polished, a bit tighter, a bit better plotted, has a bit better misdirection, or in short just is a bit better than the last Harry Hole novel from Nesbø.
This is modern Crime at its best, everything here is so close to perfection that I have a hard time seeing how it could be improved. For Nesbø fans who are up to date this will come as a welcome continuation of a great Crime series
If you haven't read anything by Nesbø before, as mentioned above, this is not the place to start. But this really is so well written that you should do yourself a favor and catch up to it. It is really that good.