Author of the Month

Name: Jo Nesbo

First Novel: Redbreast

Most Recent Book: The Leopard

'...a considerable piece of work...'

Harry Hole has buried himself in the sleazy depths of Hong Kong in order to forget the harrowing times he and his loved ones, Rakel and Oleg, suffered during his investigation into the serial murderer called “The Snowman”. He has left his position as Inspector in the Crime Squad of Oslo’s police force and abandoned himself to indulging his weaknesses and predilection for alcohol and now opium. Physically he is in very poor shape. He is called back to Norway by his old chief, Gunar Hagen, in order to solve a case involving two murdered girls. He is rescued from the predicament into which he has sunk by the young attractive detective, Kaja Solness. He is persuaded to return , not by loyalty to his boss, but because his father is seriously ill in hospital.

As he slowly reintegrates into Norwegian life, at the same time rediscovering a love for his city, he is drawn into the investigation, and the compulsive power of finding the killer takes him over. More murders are committed, with apparently little to connect them until Harry traces a common link in a skiing cabin high in the frozen wastes of the countryside. He uses his contacts and calls in many favours before, after many twists and turns right up to the very end the perpetrator of the crimes is brought down.

This is a substantial and very complex story, beautifully written and compelling reading. Harry Hole is a wonderful character; a completely driven man and an addictive personality. He has had an ongoing battle with alcoholism in the previous books. This time he has added opium to his drugs of choice - although he believes he is not addicted. But the most powerful addiction he has is to rooting out the killers and seeing them punished. To this end he will sacrifice almost anything, including his own personal happiness. His greatest loyalty is to the police - “it’s all I have. It’s my tribe. “
He never loses complete hope that one day he will achieve happiness, but always something happens to prevent it.

Something that I particularly noticed in this book is the beautiful and vivid description of the countryside and cities of Norway. Often a moment is frozen in time, particularly when there is a critical point in the action. It’s as if all senses are enhanced by the danger and excitement of the plot. Other fine details of characters’ appearances help to bring them all to life. The interaction between the sophisticated city dwellers and their rural cousins is common to many countries but Nesbo describes Norway’s version with great sympathy and humour.

Then comes the plot: it is a magnificent many-layered construction that keeps you guessing right up to the end. There are many strands that interweave, and many characters who interact in the past and the present. The solution lies in the past and it takes Hole’s determination to find it that allows him to visit the cause of many of his own personal tragedies.

I absolutely loved this book, and it is a considerable piece of work that will keep you enthralled to the end. Just the thing for the long winter evenings of January.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
I don´t know. I´m not trying to be coy or take the easy way out, but I really don´t know. No idea. Not the faintest clue.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
I do. But I think the genre is slightly overrated right now.
3) There are many aspects of the books that show a deep knowledge and understanding of many different things, including psychological problems, the drugs scene, obscure weapons of torture, ammunition and even how to survive an avalanche. How much do you research to solve a particular problem of the plot and how much is the plot driven by knowledge you already have? I was thinking in particular of the descriptions of the ski lodges and the survival techniques that Olav Hole passed on to his son.
I do a lot of research for the books, but I know what I’m after for each one, so I’m afraid I don’t end up an expert on every topic I explore for the story. But then again, I do seem to have the kind of brain that stores useless knowledge that sometimes comes in handy.
4) I read this book in translation and it reads beautifully. It presents Harry Hole as a very individual character. Do you ever involve yourself with the translation or do you leave it completely to the translator? Does the translation reflect your view of Harry Hole or is there something particularly Norwegian that does not translate?
I seldom read the translation, but I do listen to those that do. And from what I hear, Don Bartlett is doing a really good job. Some things are bound to get lost in translation, but I really don´t want to know what.
5) Do you believe that a character like Harry could ever survive in the real police force today?
The character, yes; but with his present behaviour, no.
6) Will Harry carry on investigating crime? He seems to have come to a dead end in respect of returning to Norway, but there is a hint that all is not completely resolved.
Harry Hole will continue to investigate crime. (Jo’s new Harry Hole novel, The Rodents, is out in Norway in 2011, and the English translation will be published in 2012)
7) Have you ever considered writing a stand-alone book or even writing about a different hero?
I actually have written one; it’s called The Headhunters. It will be translated in to English in the not too distant future.
8) You are being sold as ‘the next Steig Larsson’. How do you feel about this comparison after the Millenium Trilogy is such a huge global bestseller?
If they mean the next Stieg Larson in terms of sales figures, then I’m ok with that.
9) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
It has to be The Godfather. How often is the movie better than the book?
10) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson.