Tag Archives: Jo Nesbo

Harry Hole.

JonesboI’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.


Paul Bettany

Rachel Weisz

Rachel Weisz

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.




Reviews: Relatively random, recent

As always, I’ve been reading.  But due to big doings in the land of dentists, I haven’t been doing much reviewing.  So here’s an effort to get caught up, with quickie reviews of several recent reads.

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina:  Mina’s a Scottish crime writer with a psychological bent.  I love her series about journalist Paddy Meehan, which are a thick stew of family ties, misguided loyalty, and criminal undertaking.  The End of the Wasp Season features Detective Inspector Alex Morrow in a twisty tale of crime and family tragedy.  You see it all coming, but are fascinated anyway.   Well worth reading.

Headhunters by Jo Nesbo:  I liked Nesbo’s Harry Hole series and reviewed Nemesis here.  Alas, I cannot say the same for Headhunters.  Meant to be darkly humorous, I found it to be an unpleasant story of a criminal who works as a highly successful executive recruiter by day and rips off his clients by night.  He’s shocked to realize that the latest executive he’s recruiting is his wife’s lover.  I bailed on the book when he’s being chased by even worse bad guys than he is, hides in an outhouse, and is shat upon by his wife’s lover.   Farvel, Jo.

A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black:  This was on Julia Keller’s top books of 2011 , and reading her write-up reminded me how much I enjoyed his previous work featuring Quirke and Hackett, Elegy for April.  Once again, the writing is keen and lovely, the characters well-drawn, and the relationships are interesting.  The only down side for me was the cliche upon which the plot turned – evil, self-centered  rich man has a charity involving small children in orphanages.  How surprising is it that perversity is at the heart of his murder?  Still, it was a quick, engrossing read.

Bone by Bone by Carol O’Connell:  I mentioned in this blog post that I chatted with a fellow reader on the el – she was reading Bone by Bone as we sat side by side, and I had The Chalk Girl in my backpack.   Upon further reflection, I realized that I had missed this standalone mystery and got it from the library.  Bone by Bone has a lot in common with    O’Connell’s series featuring Kathy Mallory, the former feral child cum detective savant:  quirky characters and a mystery rooted in the past.   Despite its somewhat convoluted plot, Bone by Bone is ultimately a more linear book than the Mallory books.  I’d give this one a middling thumbs up.

#3 on the journey to the Edgars

Just finished Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis!  Amazing, multi-layered crime fiction, heavy on fully developed characters but just as strong in terms of plot, with plenty of twists.  It’s the third nominee for the MWA Edgar award for Best Novel that I’ve read over the last few days, along with The Missing by Tim Gautreaux and John Hart’s The Last Child.

Nesbo’s Harry Hole is a detective who has finally found some peace with girlfriend Rakel and her son Oleg.  So he passes up the opportunity to reconnect romantically with an old flame.   But the next day, he’s had an alcoholic blackout… and she’s dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.  But the gun’s in the wrong hand.  That’s a mesmerising premise for any book – but it’s just one of the mysteries at the heart of Nemesis.

The other plot involves a bank robbery that becomes a murder when the robber sets a time limit for the money to be handed over.  25 seconds, no more, or the teller gets it.  At 31 seconds, the robber takes aim, the teller says a few words, and then she’s dead.   Why?  Unravelling the mystery takes Harry and his partner, Beate Lonn, down a long, compellingly twisty path.

The only disappointment – and it’s a minor one – is that I expected more from Beate’s fusiform gyrus.  That is, Beate has a rare skill: the ability to remember every face she’s ever seen and where’s she’s seen it.   My hope is that the next Jo Nesbo book will feature Beate more prominently!  In the meantime, I’ll be going back to read the two previous books in the series (after the Edgar nominees, of course).

My intention was to rank the nominees and pick a winner.  The Last Child had the edge over The Missing.  It’s getting tough, but so far, The Last Child is still at #1, followed by Nemesis, followed by The Missing.  Still to read:  The Odds (Katherine George), Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (Charlie Huston) and A Beautiful Place to Die (Malla Nunn).