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Jo Nesbo - the Inspector Harry Hole books

Jo Nesbo was born in 1960 in Oslo, Norway, but grew up in Molde. A Norwegian graduate of Economics and Business Administration, he worked for a while as a journalist and stockbroker, before he started writing books. His first book featuring the messed up detective Harry Hole was "The Bat", published in Norwegian in 1997, but I think it may now have been translated into English.

Jo also writes songs and sings in the band Di Derre. He was a talented footballer until he broke an ankle early in his career. He also writes children's fiction. His writing has won various prizes, and his books have sold well.

The Bat,     (1997 / translated 2012)

I read this book in December, 2013.

"The Bat" is the first Harry Hole novel. It was written by Jo Nesbo in 1997 in Norwegian, but only translated into English by Don Bartlett in 2012. So, I had to start reading about Harry Hole in book two, and had read all seven books up to and including "The Phantom" before I could read book one. "The Bat" is set in Sydney, and fittingly that's where I read the book whilst on holiday there in November 2013. Why Don Bartlett waited until 2012 before translating book one, I do not know. That said, though, I do not think I have missed too much by starting at book two.

"The Bat" won prizes for the best new work of fiction in 1997, and deservedly so. It's a terrific first novel, and I really enjoyed reading it. Harry is usually a loner, but in this book he makes two very close friends. The first is Andrew Kensington, an unusual aborigine detective in the Sydney police force - an ex boxer, a philosopher, and an orphan stolen from his parents at an early age. He is a sort of loner, like Harry. There is an empathy between Andrew and Harry who become the best of friends, but sadly, there is no Andrew at the end of the book.

The other great friend is Brigitta Enquist - a swedish red haired beauty working as a barmaid in Sydney. Against all the odds, Harry and Brigitta fall in love - a fatal mistake on the part of Brigitta.

The main plot is that a Norwegian girl, Inger Holter, has been murdered in Sydney, and Harry has been transferred there to help the Sydney police in any way he can.

Having read the later books, we know that Harry Hole is an alcoholic, but anyone reading book one before the other books would not know this until well into the book. We are introduced to the Harry Hole character - an alcoholic who gets a colleague killed when Harry is driving when drunk, and this is covered up by the Norwegian police. So Harry is exiled to Australia, either to prove himself or to mess up, and then be drummed out of the police force.

Inger's death is eventually linked to that of others. Harry is a great detective, and is deservedly treated with great respect by his colleagues in Sydney.

It's a terrific story, and a terrific first novel by Jo Nesbo. It's a pity Brigitta and Harry did not make it as a couple into book two, but then of course, we would not have had Rakel and Oleg as such good friends throughout the later stories.

I really liked this book. You don't need to read it first. Having now read books one to eight, I'm really looking forward to reading book nine "The Police". This is "Scandanavian Noir" at it's very best. Harry Hole is a great character, but why do we like him I wonder - is it because of, or in spite of his many flaws?

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Cockroaches,     (1998 / translated 2013)

I read this book in May, 2014.

"Cockroaches" is the second Harry Hole novel, but I can only read them in the order of the the English translations, and so I had to wait until 2013 to get hold of a copy. By this time I had read books 3 to 9, and then book 1. "The Redbreast," book 3, was the first to be translated into English. I now realise that the books are split into two groups. The Early Years are books 1 and 2, and the Oslo Sequence are the rest. I am still looking for book 10 "The Police".

"Cockroaches" follows on from book 1, "The Bat", but covers the time before book 3, "The Redbreast". "Cockroaches" opens with Harry Hole knocked completely off the rails by the trauma of book 1. His mum has died, and his dad is very sad. And his sister has been attacked and raped - but Harry has not been able to find the rapist. Harry is drinking, and as an alcoholic, Harry is in a soul destroying state, and in a very bad way.

The Norwegian ambassador to Taiwan has been found dead in a seedy hotel bedroom, and "apparently" Harry is sent to investigate / liaise with the local Taiwanese police. It seems the politicians in Oslo remember Harry's success in tracking down a serial rapist in Australia (The Bat). Actually he has been chosen because of his known drink problem - and is not thought capable of uncovering some dark secrets of the ambasadors death.

Liz Crumley, an inspector in the Taiwanese police, is Harry's contact. She is a strange creation - a tall woman with a bald head. The ambassador is survived by a wife who is constantly drunk, and it turns out that she has only six months to live. She has a daughter - Runa, who takes a shine to Harry - and a lover, Jans Brekke, a rich currency trader. We also meet the mysterious Ivor Loken who seems to be some sort of ex secret service agent who has now grown old, but who must have been an impresive operator when younger. But he still seems to be fitter than Harry !

Jo Nesbo is a good writer, and tells a good story. I enjoyed reading the book. That said though, I defy anyone to get to the solution as to who killed the ambassador. How Harry managed to solve it is beyond me. At the end, Harry is about the only one still standing - and that is an injured Harry standing with great difficulty.

I think Harry Hole is great creation, and its good to read about him again.

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The Redbreast,     (2000 / translated 2006)

I read this book in July, 2012.

Erroneously, I thought this book was the correct starting point - the first book in the Harry Hole series, by Jo Nesbo. It's the first that I read. As usual, I was trying to read these books in the correct order, but the books were written some years earlier in Norwegian and then translated later by Don Bartlett, and I'm not sure if the very early books were translated into English. I knew that the Harry Hole books were very popular, with millions of fans, and that Jo Nesbo was referred to as "the next Stieg Larsson." I really enjoyed reading Stieg Larsson, so I decided to give Jo Nesbo / Harry Hole a go.
Book one in the series was really "The Bat", written by Jo Nesbo in 1997 - but I couldn't start with this as it was only translated into English in 2012.

Although I really liked the Harry Hole character, I found it really difficult to get into and keep up with the plot. With all the strange sounding Norwegian names, I found it very difficult to follow who was who. You turn the page, and there is another strange Norwegian name. Is this a new character, or has she / he appeared before ? I struggled to begin with, with the first Stieg Larsson, but I struggled much, much more with this book. What also didn't help was that the narrative switches between present time, and a flash back to the 1940's. Even in the present time, we get to an exciting part, read straight on into the next chapter to see what happens next, and find ourselves back three weeks in time. It all sort of works in the end, but as of just now, I'll reserve judgment as to whether I think it's a great story, or just too much hard work.

What is the story ? The flash back refers to war time Norway's ambivalent attitude to the invading Nazi regime. Some Norwegians hated the Russians, and joined the Nazis to fight them, thus they ended up on the losing side. Were they traitors ?

The flash back story and the present time story are linked by a now old man who confusingly goes under a variety of names. Are they different people, or is it the same man. Just who is he ? Why has he bought a powerful, obscenely expensive and powerful assassin's rifle ? Who is his target. (I think most readers will work this out well before it is revealed).

Harry Hole is a mess of a man. Quite a few of the top crime fiction detectives are hard drinking characters. Perhaps the most famous was / is John Rebus. Harry Hole now takes the crown. Harry is an out and out alcoholic who goes off on drinking binges, and drinks himself into oblivion. He is saved from self destruction by Ellen, his police partner, who gets him sober and functioning again. "Why do you bother", he asks. She answers "because I want to work for the best, and Harry Hole is the best detective in Norway". I thought Ellen and Harry were set to be a great partnership - Ellen's intuition, Harry's prowess - but then Ellen is murdered. We know who did it, but no one else knows, and Harry is in a mess again.

I thought there were some brilliant touches in the story - eg Harry in his drunken state sending messages to the dead Ellen's answer phone, and the messages only stop when the number is no longer available. Strange things happen. Why does the vengeful old man of the flashback story inject poison into a tree in the park ? Later we find out why, and wonder why we didn't work that out for ourselves earlier.

Harry finds a soul mate in a girlfriend Rakel, who already has a little boy Oleg. But Rakel is linked into the flashback story as strongly as everyone else.

Overall, I'll go on and read the next book for several reasons. I like Harry Hole, there are a enough touches of brilliance to compensate for the low readability of the book, and I think the next book will have Harry searching for Ellen's murderer, and I'll need to follow the story to its conclusion.

Perhaps the series will grow on me.

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Nemesis,     (2002 / translated 2008)

I read this book in August, 2012.

Nemesis is the second DI Harry Hole book (I think), written by Jo Nesbo, and set in Oslo / Norway. Harry Hole is an alcoholic, and so has a lot of enemies within the police force, but he is also an outstanding, if unconventional detective.

I found this book a lot easier to read than book one, "The Redbreast", where I really struggled. In book one, Harry's partner Ellen is murdered and we know that DI Tom Waaler did it. Harry is determined to solve Ellen's murder, but six months have gone by, and he has been told to drop it.

Nemesis is a long book - almost 700 pages - but the action never stops, and it held my attention throughout. I like books with a strong story line, and like to follow the private lives of the hero and main characters in the book.

In this book there are two main plots - I thought they might converge at the end, but they didn't really. Plot one is about a bank robber who leaves no clues whatsoever. He holds a gun to a bank teller's head, tells her to count to 25 out loud, and tells the bank manager that if the safe is not opened and the money in his hands by the count of 25, the teller is dead. The bank manager panics, and does get the safe opened, and hands the money over, but not within the count of 25, and so the robber shoots the teller. There is then a series of such raids, and there is great pressure on the police to solve the crimes. It is not Harry Hole's case, but he is persuaded to carry out a parallel investigation - the persuasion being that Harry is then allowed to reopen the Ellen murder investigation, and work on it for 3 months. The robbery is not straight forward, and it involves 2 gypsy brothers who both fall in love with the same girl. One of the gypsies is a gypsy "king". Harry is on the run at one stage, and asks the gypsy "king" for help. He is asked to pay a very high price for this help. The story is all about favours, doing them, and having them returned. Honour amongst thieves.

The second story involves Harry's private life. His girlfriend Rakel, and her son Oleg, are in Russia - Rakel is fighting for custody of Oleg in the Russian courts v. the rich family of Rakel's ex husband. With Rakel away, Harry gets a phone call from an old girlfriend Anna, ends up at her place, and then finds himself at home with a huge hangover, and no memory of the last 12 hours, 12 hours in which Anna dies. Was it suicide or murder, and was Harry there when it happened ? It turns out that Anna was a gypsy - but I'll say no more.

I was sorry that Ellen was killed off in book one, because she and Harry had the makings of a good team. In this book, Harry meets Beate Lonn, a female police colleague, a lot younger than him, but very like Harry in that Beate also is a loner. Beate has a rare one in a milion ability to recall just about every face that she has ever seen. How useful that must be for a police woman. Harry and Beate become a team. Beate's father was also a highly respected detective but who made a fatal mistake, and got himself killed.

There are all sorts of interesting relationships and inter links. Eventually Harry solves the cases, and everyone is relieved and convinced that they have got the right person. Then Harry has a rethink, and sets out to solve the cases all over again.

Harry, Rakel, Oleg, Beate, Waller, and a few others within the police force are all strong characters. Ellen's murder still has to be solved.

I liked the book, and look forward to reading book three.

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The Devil's Star,     (2003 / translated 2005)

I read this book in September, 2012.

I think this is the third Jo Nesbo book about the alcoholic detective, DI Harry Hole, and it's also the third that I have read. I had struggled a bit with book one,with all the strange Norwegian names, but found book two a lot more readable, and this is the best book so far. It's a cracker of a story on two levels - the main plot is of a serial killer who must be found and stopped, and the equal sub plot updates us about Harry's chaotic alcoholic life hopefully with Rakel and her son Oleg.

There is a third plot as well. Harry's police partner Ellen was killed in book one. We know that Tom Waaler is a crooked cop, and he did it. Harry's search for Ellen's murderer is an obsession perhaps equal to his love for Rakel, and it almost destroys him.

What is the main plot ? A pentangle is a 5 pointed star with one point at the top pointing upwards. Turn it upside down, with two points pointing upwards, and it is the Devil's Star. A serial killer is at large, killing people, removing a digit, and leaving a 5 pointed diamond on the body. The killer seems to be teasing the police - leaving no forensic evidence, but still leaving deliberate clues for the police.

What of Harry's private life ? After an enormous amount of effort, Harry has worked out that DI Tom Waaler is probably a rogue cop who supplies guns to criminals, and who killed Ellen, but Harry has no proof, and no-one believes him, not even Moller, Harry's immediate and very understanding boss. So, at the start of the book, Harry has gone completely off the rails, is in a drunken stupour, and has not reported for work for weeks. He is in a terrible condition, and has not slept for ages - if he tries to sleep he gets the most terrible nightmares where horrible things happen to Rakel, or Oleg, eg they are being decapitated ! In such a state, Harry tells Rakel he can't see her anymore. He is in such a bad way that even Moller has to say enough is enough. Moller fills in Harry's dismissal papers, and sends them to a superior to counter sign, but that superior, like most of the police station, is on summer holiday. He won't be back for three weeks. So, technically speaking, Harry is still a policeman. Moller is desperate for help with so many absent on holiday, so he asks Harry to sobre up, and investigate a missing person - it seems it's only work that can keep Harry sobre.

William Barli is a famous producer, whose wife Lisbeth has gone missing. So off goes Harry to investigate. Tom Waaler is busy investigating a murder. Harry's missing person is murder number two, and so it's probably a serial killer, and Tom Waaler and Harry have to work together to try to solve the case.

Rakel and Harry are apart - they still love each other deeeply, but Rakel's first husband was an alcoholic, and she cannot put herself and Oleg through all that again, can she ?.

The story builds and builds to climax after climax. It's a great plot structure, very good writing, and a convincing portrayal of the life of an alcoholic.

I thought the Harry Hole v Tom Waaler plot would run and run through a series of books, just as another Harry v Voldemort story ran through seven books in the Harry Potter books. But no. The problem is resolved by the end of the book. But was Tom Waaler the only rogue cop - of course not !

It's a really good story, first division detective fiction - roll on book four.

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The Redeemer,     (2005 / translated 2009)

I read this book in December, 2012.

"The Redeemer" is the fourth book by Jo Nesbo about the Norwegian DI Harry Hole, based in Oslo. The book was translated by Don Bartlett. I started reading this book in the UK, but finished reading it in Sydney. It's a huge story in a long book, and I really enjoyed reading it. Harry Hole is an alcoholic - I don't know how / where Jo Nesbo did his research, but he really seems to know what he is talking about when Harry goes off the rails on a drinking binge.

The main story starts with a flash back - an unknown 14 year old girl is at at a Salvation Army camp also attended by two teenage brothers, Peter and Jon Karlsen. All are friends. The girl is raped by someone she knows - was it Peter or Jon, or the reclusive Mads Gilstrup ? There is another flash back, and we are with a group of fighters from the Croat army, fighting the Serbs. A young lad joins the team, who proves to be brilliant at hiding in mini trenches, and attaching mines to Serb tanks. He is known as the little redeemer. The Serbs overpower the Croats, and kill Bobo, their leader - he dies rather than betraying the little redeemer. Why are we told all this ? Are later murders being done by the redemer to avenge Bobo ? Anyway, flash backs complete, we are in Oslo centre where Peter Karlsen takes Jon's place in a Salvation Army Christmas open air concert, and is shot at point blank range by what seems to be a professional hit man. Harry Hole and his assistant Halvorsen are given the case.

Of equal interest is what has been happening in Harry Hole's life. Sadly, he is no longer with Rakel, and her son Oleg. Rakel and Oleg left Harry a few weeks after the traumatic events of book 3. Rakel knew that people would always try to get at Harry through Oleg, and as a caring mum, she just could not take the chance. So now Harry is back to living alone, and Rakel is living with a doctor who appears several times in the story. I guess Harry and Rakel are still in love, but that is in the past - for now at least.

Harry's boss, Bjorne Muller, retires and Harry gets a new boss - Gunner Hagen, formerly with special forces. Muller has always been Harry's champion, and persevered with Harry beyond common sense. So Harry now thinks his days at the police HQ are numbered - one slip and he'll be out, and Harry will always slip. Muller makes a farewell speech, and presents Harry with a watch whose ticking drives Harry mad, and he throws it away, only to find it again later on. We only find out the significance of the watch at the very end of the book in an episode that I really disliked. An author can always create an explosive twist when a main character suddenly acts out of character, an a "goodie" becomes a "baddie". I thought it was unbeleivable, and a cheap stunt by Jo Nesbo - shame on you, sir !

I'm reluctant to say more in case I spoil the story for others. It's a big, long story, but it all makes sense in the end. And perhaps there are enough clues for me to think that Harry, Rakel and Oleg might eventually get together in some later book.

It's not the easiest of books to read with all the strange sounding Norwegian names - I find it difficult to remember who is who amongst the lesser characters. Jo Nesbo loves jumping about in his stories. Someone knocks at at door, then we see a line of *** denoting a jump, and then we find another door is being opened in someone else's house, elsewhere, and possibly even in the past. Clever, but difficult to follow sometimes.

But stick with it. This is not the best book in the series, but still it's a very good read, and I recommend it. But after all this "Norwegian Noir", I'm going to give myself a break, read "The Vault", by Ruth Rendell next, and rejoin the pleasant company of good old Reg Wexford.

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The Snowman,     (2007 / translated 2010)

I read this book in January, 2013.

"The Snowman" is the fifth book in the DI Harry Hole of Oslo police series by Jo Nesbo. I read it when on holiday in Australia in Nov/ Dec 2012, and thoroughly enjoyed it. As with most Harry Hole books, it is a story told over lots of pages, and you have to concentrate very hard because of the strange sounding Norwegian names, and because Jo Nesbo likes to time jump. So check if you are reading something set in 1980, or 1992, or in the book's current time of 2004.

The story is a complicated one about a serial killer in Norway. They haven't had one before, and only Harry Hole has any relevant experience. The killer strikes at married women, and leaves a snowman at the scene. The murders had been going on for years - all that had been recorded was a series of women going missing. No one had made the connection before Harry Hole took an interest.

There are various suspects, and each time one is identified everyone thinks that the snowman has been found - but each time we know that this cannot be the case, there is still too much of the book still to be read. Harry gets there in the end, but how many of Harry's friends survive ?

The strange relationship between Harry, his girlfriend Rakel, and her son continues. Rakel still thinks its too dangerous to be with Harry - she cannot risk Oleg's life. So Rakel plays it safe and is still in a relationship with the staid, apparently honest and good doctor, Matios. They are even going to leave Norway together. But Harry and Rakel love and care for each other so deeply - we doubt if they really will go their separate ways.

Harry has a new colleague - Katrine Bratt. She wants to, and is assigned to work work for Harry - the man whose last two assistants were killed. Katrine turns out to be an impressive detective - almost a female version of Harry. But is she all she seems to be ?

Gunner Haagen, Harry's superior, seems a decent and under rated man. He doesn't do a lot, but I like him.

There are some parts of the story that I didn't fully understand - red herrings I guess. Who was Storrman, who was tearing down the walls of Harry's apartment to eradicate a mould and fungal infection? Did this mould really exist, and was it the cause of Harry's losing so much weight, or was the weight loss just down to Harry's keep fit regime. And who was the young boy who appeared in the back of Rakel's car - why was it mentioned, but never explained ?

It's a terrific story, with a very strong character in Harry Hole, the alcoholic cop, by an accomplished writer, Jo Nesbo. Its all a bit gruesome, but a great read. I look forward to reading the next book - hopefully there might even be a happy ending for Harry, Rakel, and Oleg - but like DI Banks and Annie Cabbot, that is probably something being saved for the distant future.

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The Leopard,     (2009 / translated 2011)

I read this book in March, 2013.

"The Leopard" is the sixth book in Jo Nesbo's series about the chaotic alcoholic detective, DI Harry Hole of Oslo. After the terrible events of the Snowman, Rakel and Oleg have gone abroad somethere. Harry also has gone off. He meant to get further, but he got drunk, and was thrown off the plane at Hong Kong, where Harry is now living in a hovel. Poor Harry. To escape horrible terrible nightmares, Harry took to drink. It is a demon he cannot slay, every waking breath cries out for just one more drink. Well Harry has now discovered that drugs dull the ache for drink. He is a drink addict. Can he take just enough drugs to work, but not enough to become addicted ?

There appears to be another serial killer in Norway, and no one has any idea how to go about capturing and stopping the the mass murderer. Gunner Hagen of Crime Squad, and Harry's boss is finding that his empire is being cut from under him by POB, and it's new chief Michael Bellman. Gunner sends a new, very attractive rookie detective, Kaja Solness out to Hong Kong to entice Harry back, and help Crime Squad solve the murders. Kaja is dogged, and does find Harry, but she cannot persuade him to return to Oslo. She has one last card to play - to her credit she did not want to play it. She tells Harry that his dad Olav Hole is seriously ill in hospital with cancer, and is not expected to live long. Harry agrees to return, Kaja pays off his gambling bills, and his drug bills, and soon Harry is back in Oslo, but only to visit his father ! However he cannot help but get drawn in to investigating the murders.

They seem to be unrelated murders, with nothing linking the victims. Harry calls in help from his past, in fact from the mental asylum where she is being held - Katharine Bratt. She is brilliant at almost computer hacker level of doing computer searches, and she discovers a link. All the victims had stayed at the same time at the same log cabin in a desolate remote part of Norway.

I started off really enjoying the book, and it's a big 600 plus page story. But, as before, I struggled with the foreign names, and in remembering who is who, and about 2/3 rds of the way through, my attention was flagging. Kaja and Harry had become a working police partnership, but Kaja is not all she seems. It all becomes good in the end, but of course, there is no happy ending for Harry and Kaja. Kaja has fallen for Harry, but Rakel and Oleg are reported back in Oslo. Olav Hole dies, and Rakel and Oleg go the church, sitting at the back, but leave before Harry can speak to them. Harry goes round to say hello - Kaja never had a the remotest chance, it was always only Rakel and Oleg for Harry.

At the start of the book, everyone had been commenting on what had happened to Harry's jaw. It seemed to have been broken, and left unset ? One of the strange murder weapons in the book is a "Leopold apple". This horrible device is inserted in the victim's mouth, and ridges spring up holding it in place. There is a wire that dangles from it. Pull this wire, and 25 prongs spring out, piercing the victims brain and throat. We just know, Harry is going to find this in his mouth at some time !

The book read a little like it was at the end of the series, although I know it is not. Harry ends up ,where he started, but with neither Rakel nor Kaja. But if Harry can stay off the drink and now drugs, and cure his demons, there might yet be future for him and Rakel, some time in the future. Goodness knows, Harry does so much good, he deserves some peace.

I love this series, and look forward to reading The Phantom.

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The Phantom,     (2011 / translated 2012)

I read this book in April, 2013.

"The Phantom" is the seventh book in the DI Harry Hole ( Oslo police) series by Jo Nesbo. Perhaps it's the eighth - I may have missed "The Bat" as book one of the series, but I am not sure if/ when it was translated into English. Harry Hole is a hopeless alcoholic who later takes to drugs . He drank to chase away terrible nightmares, then took to drugs to abate the perpetual craving for alcohol. His body has taken terrific punishment (and in no book more so than in this book), and his on going love affair with Rakel must surely be ultimately doomed, but perhaps not.

After the horrendous events of "The Snowman" and "The Leopard," Harry and Rakel had to part - Harry would always come with too much danger attached, not just to Rakel, but also to her son Oleg - dear Oleg whom Harry regards as the son he never had. You always hurt the one you love.

This book opens with Harry returning to Oslo after an absence of three years. Remarkably he is off alcohol and drugs, has put on a bit of weight, and is reasonably fit again. Almost nothing would have induced Harry to return to Oslo - but of course, one thing always would - ie if Rakel or Oleg were in trouble, and needed his help. Well, Oleg is in jail, accused of the murder of a youth, and there is a mass of good evidence pointing to Oleg's guilt !

Will Harry prove that Oleg didn't do it ? It soons becomes clear to Harry that Oleg has got himself into some very bad company, and has not only been taking some very adictive, dangerous drugs, but has also been pushing them. How could such an innocent young lad have changed so much ? Jo Nesbo wrote very powerfully about alcohol addiction in the early books, and now he writes with equal conviction about drug addiction. Yes, we accept that once addicted, you would indeed sell your very soul for one more fix ! So this is the changed state that Oleg has got himself into.

It's a terrific story, a long story, and a terrible story. At one point in the story, Harry and Rakel are together again and escape, and even a happy ending seems possible. But are they to have this happy ending ? I doubt it !

The story builds to climax after climax. Eventually a very weary, and wounded Harry seems tired of life itself. As I was reading the book, at times it seemed to read as a final book in the whole Harry Hole series. I can't say more without giving away the terrible ending, but I will say this. Do read the ending carefully, and perhaps all may not be lost.

It's strange how we could become so attached to such an unsympathetic character !

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Police,     ( - / translated 2013)

I read this book in January, 2015.

"The Phantom" is the tenth Harry Hole book, and is fully up to the high standards of the others in the series. Jo Nesbo is a very good writer, and he likes to play tricks with his readers. So book nine finished with the possible death of Harry Hole - was he dead or not ? I thought not. The suspense continues into this book. We are one third of the way into the book before that question is answered. And then, almost at the end of the book, once again, is Harry finally dead. How many times can we fall for the same trick ? But it really is good writing.

Once the story gets going its quite a good plot - some maniac seems to be looking at failed police crime investigations, and punishing the investigating officers in bizare / horrendous ways. Is it revenge, retribution, or what, and will Harry and/ or his team be targetted ?

We were on holiday in Australia mid December 2014 to mid January, 2015, and were spending Christmas and New Year on Jamie and Jacqui's farm. I had run out of reading material , and so I downloaded Police, from the Apple Istore at a cost of 4.49 - a good price, I thought. This was the first downloaded book I had read. It was OK, but I much prefer a proper book - the printed word on paper. I took quite a long time to get into the story, and I wasn't sure if this was because I was reading it on an Ipad, or because the hero Harry Hole had not appeared yet. But things instantly perked up when Harry did turn up. Jo Nesbo kept fooling me all the way through the book. When Harry finally appeared he was fit, happy and with Rakel and Oleg ! I thought this could never happen, and that such a state could not last - Harry is a deeply flawed character, who is bound to relapse. I got that wrong. It is still very dangerous to be in Harry's team, and sadly not all of the old gang make it to the end of the book. Also there is a strange character stalking Aurora, the young daughter of the psychiatrist Stale Aune. The stalker seems about to pounce at the end of the book, so it doesn't seem a happy ending for everyone.

I can't say if it's a happy ending for Harry, Rakel and Oleg without spoiling the story. I'll say no more. But this is a terrific book with a magnificient twist at the end that I should have seen coming, but didn't.

If you like the previous books in this series you'll love this book. Its bleak, the good people don't always win, and there are few jokes to lighten the darkness (ie its "Scandi noir"). But it works. I hope there will be more Harry Hole books, but at the time of writing this, Jo Nesbo's 2014 book "The Son" is not a Harry Hole book.

One final point, if Harry, Rakel and Oleg can make it, perhaps there might be hope for Elvis, Lucy and Ben in the Elvis Cole books by Robert Crais. Not quite the same point, and not in the same league, might also Hamish and Priscilla finally get together in the Hamish Macbeth books by M C Beaton ?

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The Thirst,     ( - / translated 2017)

I read this book in January, 2017.

This is book 11 in the excellent Jo Nesbo Norwegian series, and the good news is that toubled alcoholic Harry Hole is back and in full strength. It's a long book with a terrific story within a story - rather like an onion, you peal one layer and find another one underneath. The Thirst could stand for Harry's thirst for alcohol - a rage never conquered - or it can be the thirst for blood of a vampire, or vampirist using this book's terminology. Usually it takes me ages to find some latest book in the charity shops I visit, but this time I was lucky - I got the latest 2017 Harry Hole book not long after it was published.

Harry Hole has still left the police force and is working as a very successful lecturer in criminology. He is living with the one and only true love of his life - Rakel - and he is happy. Oleg, Rakel's son is also still there - training to be a policeman like his step father. But Harry of course still has his twin demons - drink, and a lust for the thrill of the chase of a murder investigation. Harry is still plagued by dreadfull nightmares - the faces of those he failed to save. He is also dreaming about the one serial killer that got away, Valentin Gjertsen - the only blemish in his extraordinary career. But now it seems he may be back, and when the chief of police, Harry's arch enemy Mikael Bellman wants a latest murder solved quickly (so that Bellman can progess to be Minister of Justice), he calls in Harry Hole to do the job. If Harry refuses Oleg's career will be over. Harry says he has returned because of this blackmail - but we know the real reason.

Its a big book with a lot of characters, some old, and many new. The old ones include Bellman and his sidekick Truls Berntsen, Ulla, Bellman's wife, Katrine Bratt who is notionally in charge of the investigation, Gunnar Hagen, crime chief, Bjorn head of forensics, and the now retired Stale Aune, police psychologist. The new ones include two, anxious to join Harry's small sub team - young Anders Wyller, and a new student psychologist with a special interest in vampirism - Hallstein Smith. There is also a sinister doctor Sivert Falkeid, who will treat Rakel when she is lying in an induced coma. Is Falkeid a hero or a villain ?

It is a help and a hindrance to have read this series from the start. It is a great help in that we know most of these people, and their back stories. For instance Berntsen, Mikael and Ulla all went to school together, and Bernsten always had a crush on Ulla. So when Ulla is attacked it is Bernsten who stands up to protect her, whilst Mikael remains seated. And Katrine and Hole go back a long way, but so far they have not been romantically linked. Of course Harry has Rakel, but drunk he might well stray and do something he would later regret. And so Katrine becomes pregnant, but who is the father ? If it is Harry, he certainly doesn't know. The hindrance part is that we now know Jo Nesbo's writing style, and his love of misdirection. Several books ago, a book ended with us not knowing if Harry was dead or alive. The next book opened with us following the fortunes of someone gravely ill in a hospital bed. That person died, and only later did we learn that that person was not Harry. So we know that when someone dies, it need not be the person we think it is.

I thought the Valentin, vampirist story was a strong (too strong in places) plot, but when Valentin was eventually caught, our growing suspicions that Valentin might not have been alone, were confirmed. But who, of all the characters old and new, could not be all that he seemed ? And so, having built to one climax, we find there is still a lot of the book still to read - and an even darker tale emerges, with an even stronger climax.

It's terrific crime writing - well done Jo Nesbo. There are some of the worst villains and sickening crimes here, but there is occasional humour. I liked young Aurora, daughter of Stale Aune, who suffered so much, but emerged a heroine, even explaining to her father how Harry had been right to break a confidence. They think all the vampirists have been caught, but are they right ? And what about Harry's two friends Katrine and Bjorn, now back together, engaged, and Katrine pregnant ? Of course we will read on to see what happens next. Let's hope we won't have to wait another four years.

Finally a thought. As part of the plot, Harry has bought a bar, and has put his old chum, the former taxi driver Oystein in charge. Rakel is even being roped in. Is owning a bar ever a good idea for an alcoholic ?

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Knife,     ( - / translated 2019)

I read this book in December, 2019.

I read lots of good crime series, but ever so often I get a treat - a real stunner of a book of an excellent series. "The Knife" is one such book. It's a big, complicated, on going terrific story by Jo Nesbo, a master of his craft. A dreadful murder is committed, and there are hints as to whom the murderer might be as a series of suspects appear, but are disproved, until only one unthinkable suspect remains. And even then we have an attempted suicide, a last minute realisation that "there is something wrong" and finally justice of sorts. But where is Harry to go from here ? It depends on the roll of a dice.

In most crime series I write of the two main strands of the story. Strand one is the crime, the murder to be solved. And strand two is an update in what is happening in the main character's private life. Here however, the crime and Harry's private life are the same story.

We open with an old man in a hunting equipment store looking at a TV screen showing an under water view of the adjoining river - the camera was installed to see spawning fish moving upstream. The old man is fascinated by a green dress caught on some branch, and dancing in the currents. But then a submerged car floats by, with someone trapped inside and fighting desperately to escape. This man had recently bought an animal surveillance camera in the shop. The image has gone before anyone else sees the picture. Why are we being told this story - is the trapped man someone whose story is about to unfold, or could it Harry Hole himself ? There are later other flashback stories - one of a man waking up to find himself lying in a pool of blood, looking into the eyes of a dead woman.

The author then gives us a quick background update of the main characters of the series. Katrine Bratt is now head of crime division of the local Oslo police, working for Gunner Hagen, the local Oslo police chief. The national police force is headed by Ole Winter, and Sung-min Larsen is their brilliant chief detective. There is great competition between local and national police forces. Bjorn Holm, Harry's friend in forensics , is married to Katrine, and they have a young baby who surprisingly has a mass of blond hair - Katrine has black hair,and Bjorn ginger. Harry has sold his interest in the Jealousy Bar, but his school friend chum Oystein still works there, and Harry drinks there. Yes and tragically the alcoholic Hole has lost the good fight and is back on the booze, drinking to oblivion and memory loss. Stale Aune is the psychological expert and a friend to Harry. Kaja Solness, Harry's girlfriend before Rakel, is back on the scene. Rakel works for a Human Rights International Organisation - her boss is Roar Bohr, ex SAS who was in Afghanistan at the a same time as Kaja. All now seem in need of PTSD counselling.

Svein Finne, the knife fetish serial rapist, has served his time, and is released, now back on the streets, and has vowed vengeance on Harry who not only put him away, but later shot and killed Finne's son. The saddest update is that Rakel and Harry have parted. Rakel has thrown out Harry, and it's for more than his alcoholic binges. What that more is, is gradually revealed as the story progresses. Nesbo captures the despair of alcoholism perfectly - Harry is an absolute mess. But Rakel and Harry were the perfect couple. Rakel was the reason Harry went on living - how could he lose his life treasure ? It's simple - he is an alcoholic, cannot help sinning, and then doesn't know what he is doing. So when Katrine picked a comatose Harry out of the gutter, took him to her home, and put him to bed ........

Katrine and Gunner have given Harry a job of sorts to keep him out of the pub for part of the day. He is working on cold cases. The rest of the force are chasing a rapist. Harry knows its Finne, and wants the case. But he is a mess, smells of booze - it's out of the question. He tracks down one of Finne's victims, a young school teacher. He says he will protect her if she helps him - and yes Harry captured Finne, then he had to be released, and the teacher is in worst danger. At the very end of the book Harry repays his debt to the teacher.

And now to the very saddest news of all. Rakel has been murdered, stabbed by a knife. Husband Harry is a potential suspect, and he attends a national police interview conducted by Sung-min. Harry can't say where he was at the time of death - he has come to the interview to find out. Sung-min is a big enough man to respect Harry's when sobre flashes of detecting genius, and he tells Harry he was drinking at the Jealousy at the time, taken home by Bjorn, and a neighbour said he didn't go out again. Harry leaves the interview - delays facing the grief of losing Rakel by pretending he is asleep, and it's all a dream, and sets out to capture Finne.

Various suspects come and go but a nagging background suspicion bubbles away. Did a drunken Harry do it ? Did he, could he ? When all the suspects are eliminated, one by one, that just leaves Harry. And so a rich story unfolds, earler nuggets of information start to fit - it's all a terrific read ! I don't write spoilers, so I can't really say more.

In concluding may I say three things. Harry and Oleg, Rakel's police cadet son, bond as never before. There is a touching scene when they sit fishing on a boat in a lake, and Harry remembers sitting just like this with his grandad. The structure of the book is perfect, as is the ending and the explanation. I think there will be another book in the series - make it soon, please. !

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