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Smart Crime Book Reviews: Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo has his own website.


With the emergence of crime novels from the Scandanavia countries (just to name Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson) who have had their books adapted for the screen. The Age Newspaper has an interesting article on death in a cold climate.


Nemesis
The Snowman
The Redeemer
The Redbreast

Nemesis by Jo NesboBook Cover of Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

Read by Tracy in November 2011

Tracy recommends this as a psychologic thriller

In Nemesis, Harry Hole is starting to recover from the murder of his partner Ellen, and has started on a mature relationship with Rakel but has not given up chasing ghosts and spending every waking moment chasing after the bad guys. I don't think I would have her patience to be constantly put on the back burner. Whilst Rakel is in Moscow with Oleg finalising her custody case, Harry becomes even more obsessed than usual with the case related to Nemesis where the line between personal and business has been crossed and Harry's reliance on alcohol only spells doom. Whilst working on a case, Harry meets an old flame and becomes extremeley drunk, so that the next day he does not remember what happened, until this old flame turns up dead and he starts to investigate her murder in his spare time. This draws the two cases into parallel and Harry is constantly having to hide the truth about the cases and who and what Nemesis is. It isn't all doom and gloom and there are some light moments. Harry is interviewing a shop assistant who he wants to arrest for his inability to pronounce "th" i.e. something becomes sumfin and this seems to fundamentally annoy Harry, even he admits that he is pushing forty and has started to enjoy grumbling. Halvorsen has not yet started on his affair with Beate who we are introduced to in this book and we see their relationship develop after a few drinks and a dance at a work function. I also learnt that Dysosmia is a disease related to partial loss of smell, which is pertinent to me as I struggle to smell most things.

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The Snowman by Jo NesboBook Cover of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Read by Tracy in September 2011

Tracy recommends this as a look into the mind of an ordinary killer

In The Snowman, Harry Hole is looking for a murderer who leaves a snowman at the murder scene - and there are soon lots of murder scenes some of them particularly grizzly. As different people are accused and then subsequently released the police go into blame overdrive and soon the departments are fighting against each other. Hole finds himself increasingly on the outside of the investigation after he realises that it is the murderer who is controlling not only the investigation but Hole himself. Add in Katrine Bratt, the new detective on the team and things take a different twist. Bratt is desperate to solve the case which she believes will reinstate her fathers ruined reputation. However, Hole eventually realises who her father was and starts to look more closely at the previous cases. This leads him towards an almost certain tragedy, but in true Hole style he manages to come good. During the book Hole is still under the control of alcohol and he is always on the brink of fighting or succumbing to it, along with his insatiable desire for Rakel. They may no longer be an item, there is still a huge spark and they are constantly drawn together. I laughed at Harry's idea of an underrated modern film being Starship Troppers which I think has a storyline purely based on boobs and guns or as Rakel said - it's a crap macho film whereas Harry counters with it is a satirical look at American society's inherent fascism, hmm think he is way off the mark there. There are still connections with the other Harry Hole books and you are pleased that he does start to fight some of his past demons and actually take some advise from those closest to him.

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The Redeemer by Jo NesboBook cover of The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

Read by Tracy February 2011

Tracy recommends as a "good" crime/suspense novel

This is my second Jo Nesbo novel in recent weeks - he is heavily publicised in the local bookshops and online here in London, so I am trying to get into this genre and his writing style, which I certainly was able to appreciate slightly more in this book. As with the Steig Larsson Millennium Trilogy you soon get used to the names and places which are all Scandinavian.

As per The Redbreast, the maverick of this novel is still Harry Hole, but as this is the fourth book in the series (I had previously read book two), I have missed the section after the last novel which seemed to have answered a lot of my questions and missing plot lines. One of these days I will learn about reading books in sequence, but I had thought they were not a sequential novel series. Hole is still the same, battling his demons of alcohol and the inability to follow orders to solve murder cases in the underbelly of Oslo. I am getting to grips with the style of Hole and how he interacts with those around him. However, I certainly would never be his partner, death sentence if you ask me. I am looking forward to the next novel to find out how Beate copes with her unexpected but sad future.

This book is based on a manhunt through Oslo during winter which I can only imagine is so cold it is unimaginable. This time the story follows the leadership of The Salvation Army and the infighting and ignorance of a supposed caring organisation. The twist is interesting where a hitman is procured but makes a mistake which he tries to right, putting in play a catastrophic sequence of events that impacts a huge variety of people. There is also the side plot of the Gilstrup family who are totally psychologically screwed and I will never be able to look at a vacuum cleaner in the same light again. Oslo seems a depressing place in winter for those that are dispossessed which just leads to a horrible cargo of lost humanity ekeing out an existence that creates some very horrific mental pictures. However, it is amongst this misery that The Salvation Army have risen to prominence only to have taken on a role that is beyond their permit, becoming a business in the process of selling off their low-socio economic housing estates for a profit. At the end of the story is the unveiling of a new plot line that links to the previous books and how the Prince became a leader in the Police force and the growth of corruption that is currently unabated. That is until Harry is taken into the secrecy of the group with a hope that he can stop it's growth. One problem I had was some of the unnecessary explanations and again a few plot lines that seem to go off on a tangent, which isn't answered in this book - I suppose they are the carrot for the next book, however it is a long read and could definately improve with a leaner storyline to keep the pace moving even faster. Well worth a possible second reread once I have read all the books in sequence.

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The Redbreast by Jo NesboBook cover of The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Read by Tracy February 2011

Tracy recommends as a good crime/suspense novel in the Stieg Larsson genre

This book carries the title of "The Next Steig Larsson" on it's front cover - certainly a heavy burden to live up to. I am not sure if it just because he is Scandanavian (Norwegian compared to Larsson’s Swedish) or because he writes a gritty crime novel. The Redbreast won the Glass Key Award for the best Nordic crime novel when it was first published and was subsequently voted Norway’s best crime novel in 2004.

The hero of the story is Harry Hole, who has a love of alcohol and accidently commits an heroic act and is promoted to move him out of the public eye and therefore scrutiny. So he finds himself an inspector in the secret service (POT) and supposedly bound to a paper pushing desk job. However, a case crosses his desk involving a neo-Nazi who he had previously attempted to put in jail, but due to a legal technicality his suspect gets off and it would seem tenuously linked to a serial murder case which dates back to World War II. Hole is a character that can’t be defined – He initially comes over as a maverick, but you know he is just stubborn, but you also see his soft side in his dealings with his Sis which was refreshing and anyone that can read his answerphone messages to Ellen without tears welling up to be extremely hard hearted. The book soon splits into two plots – one involving present day Oslo (Norway) and one dating back to the Eastern Front during World War II. They are intertwined and the early history dictates the other for the majority of the book. Like Larssons' novels, there was some confusion with names and places, but eventually they slotted into place which did mean I had to scan back through some of the initial paragraphs to get a better understanding of the book. Some of the characters were very interesting and I was devastated by the outcome for Ellen, who was a fantastic character to pursue in other books and storylines. The other great relationship was Hole and Hakel, interesting there were a few unanswered questions, so this may be a future storyline for Nesbo. The title of the book is explained by Ellen who is interested in the risk that the Redbreast takes in it’s migration choices.

I thought I had worked out the characters and plot lines, but towards the end some of the plot becomes a bit too entwined and there are some big jumps required in answering the questions that lead to a spectacularly strange ending. The pace was quick and fast throughout the majority of the book, so the ending seemed a bit disappointing and messy, but that would be because there are books after The Redbreast, so they may answer some of those questions. However, it is my first Jo Nesbo book and I have another to read, so won’t give up just yet – it may be the start to a long reading relationship, besides “The Prince” is still an outstanding item on the agenda.

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