3 June 2008


Harvill Secker, 2008, ISBN 978-1-846-55039-3, 474 pages

It is a busy Friday afternoon in October in Oslo. The bank robber is wearing a boiler suit and a balaclava, and is brandishing a gun. He whispers instructions to the female cashier for the ATM to be opened and unloaded. Less than 90 seconds later she is dead, executed. The aging, frantic bank manager has taken too long to open the ATM and the gunman carries out his threat to kill her, despite the fact that he now has the money, two million kroner. He then disappears without trace into the crowded street.

It's been a year since Detective Harry Hole's partner Ellen Gjelten was killed, and Harry has rejoined the Crime Squad and is part of the team investigating the bank murder. A newcomer to the squad is an expert in gaining information from video footage. In the course of the investigation she becomes Harry's new partner.

The Harry Hole we first met in THE DEVIL'S STAR and then again in REDBREAST is dealing with his alcoholism and has been semi-successful in giving up smoking. Just now though, he's on his own, because his girlfriend Rakel and her young son have gone to Russia to fight a custody battle. Harry accepts an invitation to coffee from an old flame Anna, and then finds himself at home without any recollection of how he got there. Then he hears that Anna is dead. Harry is not at all sure that he might not have killed her, although the police investigation concludes suicide.

When the bank robbery investigation is stalled, it is decided to try a new tack. Harry and his new partner Beate will be allowed to work on their own. This suits Harry down to the ground as he feels stifled by having to follow orders. A break through leads them to believe they know who the bank robber is. Nevertheless they still need proof and the bank robberies continue - but are they the real thing, or copy-cats?

The remarkable thing for me about NEMESIS is that just when you believe everything is stitched up, Nesbo reminds you of something you forgot, and the roller coaster ride takes off again. The other thing that I noticed is that I have a much better idea of what Harry looks like than I did after the earlier two novels - that is probably a bit trivial, but it is also very satisfying. I also liked Harry's new partner Beate Lonn and the relationship that is building between them.

Harry Hole is not just a Norwegian version of the other "modern" loose cannons in crime fiction: Rankin's John Rebus, Wingfield's Jack Frost, and Mankell's Kurt Wallander to name few. Sure he shares some of their problems - the alcoholism, tobacco addiction, poor social relationships, and a workaholic to boot. But, at just under 40, he is younger than them, with much of his career before him, and for me each novel is defining him more clearly.

NEMESIS is the 3rd of Jo Nesbo's highly acclaimed novels to be translated from Norwegian into English and it is well worth while to try to read them in order. Just to make things tricky, look for THE DEVIL'S STAR and then REDBREAST (this is not their translation order). You will see from Nesbo's own website that there are in fact many more Harry Hole books - let's just hope we see them in English. He is certainly a crime fiction writer to treasure. [Visit his website too and read extracts in English, or sign up for his newsletter]

My rating: 5.0

1 comment:

Kerrie said...

See JO NESBO FIGHTS ILLITERACY at http://camberwell-crime.blogspot.com/2008/06/jo-nesbo-fights-illiteracy.html


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