I’ve been on a Jo Nesbo kick lately, initiated by a visit to a Milwaukee used bookstore where a grimy stack of Harry Hole thrillers at unbelievably low prices called my name. Hole, for the uninitiated, is an icon in crime fiction – the quintessential outsider, alcoholic and drug addict, somehow always in control even when out of control, inspiring loyalty and scorn in equal measure, taking an amazing amount of physical abuse while suffering most from emotional blows. Sounds like a drag, right? But readers are sucked in to the Harry vortex, happily turning pages well into the night, and starting the next book within hours (or even moments) of finishing the previous one. You can find a list of all ten books on Nesbo’s website. My strong recommendation, if you’re new to Harry, is to read them in order. They stand up well if you don’t – each is fully realized on its own – but you’ll be creating spoilers galore.
They’re all good, compulsively readable, densely plotted with interesting characters (particularly the villains). Roger Ebert said that you can always figure out the bad guy in movies because he’s the one that has no real reason for being in the film. (He calls it The Law of Economy of Characters.) The neighbor who takes in the protagonist’s cat. The main character’s best friend from high school. The doorman that is in a few too many scenes, when there’s no real reason for the building to even HAVE a doorman. And so on. Also true in poorly written crime fiction or mysteries.
This never happens in a Harry Hole book… there are always plenty of potential bad guys and even when it turns out to be someone very close to Harry, it’s still a complete shock. Read The Snowman, my current fave, if you want to experience this yourself.
And Hollywood’s come knocking for Harry… interestingly, with The Snowman. Scorsese was expected to direct, but I see now that has changed. No cast announcements have been made, although fans are suggesting Paul Bettany or Alexander Skarsgard, and I totally see Rachel Weisz as Rakel.