Monday 18 December 2017

Review: Harry Hole serves up another tense read

Myles McSweeney on the new Harry Hole thriller from Nordic bestseller Jo Nesbo

Colourful past: Crime writer Jo Nesbo still sings in a successful rock band
Colourful past: Crime writer Jo Nesbo still sings in a successful rock band
The new Harry Hole thriller: Police

Myles McWeeney

A vicious killer is on the prowl in Oslo's cold, autumnal streets. The police are coming under increasing pressure from the city's politicians to catch the murderer, particularly as the victims are all police officers who have been killed at the scenes of crimes they had once investigated and failed to solve.

Meanwhile, a mysterious, unnamed man in a coma in hospital is showing signs of regaining consciousness, which is panicking the newly appointed chief of police.

Harry Hole's colleagues desperately need his expertise, his dedication to the job and brilliant insights, but this time he is outside the loop, with those he most cares for, his lawyer girlfriend Rakel and her son Oleg whom he has come to love despite his troubled past, in deadly danger. Any involvement on his part will destroy their lives and his own.

This 10th Harry Hole thriller is akin to taking a ride on a terrifying roller-coaster. Nesbo lays out the plot slowly, throwing in plenty of red herrings on the way while building the tension to an unbearable pitch, then plunges the reader into a maelstrom of mayhem and murder before the story is finally and violently resolved.

The formula is addictive, and has catapulted Jo Nesbo into the first division of international crime writers. Harry Hole thrillers have sold more than 20 million copies in 40 countries around the world since the first, The Bat, was published in Norway in 1997.

It is a source of minor irritation to Nesbo that for years the covers of his books in this part of the world and America have been emblazoned with marketing banners declaring him the new Stieg Laarsen. He figures the tribute should be the other way around – Laarsen's first thriller, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was published posthumously in 2005, eight years after the first Harry Hole novel appeared.

Nesbo's background is colourful. As a youngster he was a gifted soccer player with Molde, one of Norway's premier league teams, with dreams of playing professional football with Spurs – dreams that were dashed when at the age of 19 he tore cruciate ligaments in his knee.

After his mandatory national service in the Norwegian army he went to business school, where he formed a rock band called Di Derre, which translates as 'Them There'. Their second album topped the charts in Norway, and the band, which features Nesbo on lead vocals, is still successful.

Commissioned to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, Nesbo submitted instead the plot for the first Harry Hole thriller. It became a huge bestseller, won the award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year and the rest is, as they say, literary history.

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