“Then Harry was alone. As we always are.”
Even though Harry Hole is now a well-established character in the world of crime fiction, this is the first time I’ve decided to pick one of these books up. I’ve been told for years by customers and colleagues that Nesbo is a must read. A flaw of mine is stubbornness and if somebody gives me a glowing recommendation I tend to stay away. Recently my stubborn ways have fallen a little, my recent found love of the Rolling Stones through close friends being one of the many examples, and as I get older I’ve come to realise that Andy James isn’t always right.
Harry Hole, a recovering alcoholic, is sent to Australia to investigate the murder of a Norwegian childrens TV presenter, Inger Holter, but on arrival he is firmly put in his place by the Australian authorities and told he is there only to observe.
Harry is introduced to Andrew Kensington, an Aborigine and Detective for the Sydney Police, who takes Harry under his wing and tells him a lot of tales about life in Australia as an Aborigine. This is my first of two problems with this book. There are a lot of stories that don’t really help you along. Situations are pretty easy to understand are often explained through storytelling and the first half of the book gets a bit bogged down with setting the scene. He also meets Birgitta, a Swedish redhead, and they begin an emotional relationship. Harry tells her his deepest secret, that he caused an accident whilst being intoxicated, which made him quit drinking.
The second half switches gear to full-blown thriller that nearly causes whiplash. I found myself having to go back and re-read some pages because I was franticly scanning in an attempt to relieve some tension. Harry falls off the wagon in horrific fashion and everything falls apart. It’s only when meeting the homeless Joseph, an ex-skydiving instructor, Harry discovers an important lead.
There are times when this book is fantastic. Harry is such a likeable fuck-up, but because this is the first Harry Hole book, I saw teething problems with a particular plot point towards the end that made no sense to me at all. I am being overly critical because Nesbo is considered at the very top of the Scandinavian crime pile. If you’re expecting to be blown away by this, you won’t be. This is a set up to Harry as a dysfunctional human and, even in times of detective brilliance, he still makes big mistakes.
What this has done is made me excited to read more. There is no way I can’t. Nesbo really engages and, unfortunately for my bank account, I feel he will be on the reading pile again very soon. The only question now is do I wait for book two, The Cockroaches, or go straight in for The Redbreast? I don’t think I’m going to be able to wait for it.
Jo Nesbo’s Police, due for release in the UK this year, has sold out its first print run in Norway. They printed 270,000 copies. Further evidence that Jo is at the very top of this genre.
Jo Nesbo is printed by Vintage Random House