The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
Harry Hole book 3
Source: library copy
This is the first Harry Hole book I’ve read and the earliest book in the series to be translated into English. The first book in the series, The Bat, is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on October 9, 2012 according to Amazon. I’ve been meaning to read Nesbø for awhile now (The Snowman has been sitting on my shelf for a year), and I’m glad I dove into this book.
The Redbreast begins with Harry assigned to protect the President of the United States on a trip to Norway. After he shoots someone, he’s quickly reassigned and has a solitary job monitoring neo-Nazi groups. Abruptly, the story jumps to World War II scenes, specifically a group of Norwegians who fought with the Germans against the Russians. The two stories converge, of course.
First, missing out on the first two books in the series that have not yet been published in the United States did not feel like a hindrance to me. We learn early on that Harry had a rough case or two, specifically a shooting in Bangkok, that sent him into an alcoholic spiral. That seems to be sufficient backstory for someone new to the series. Tougher for me, however, was the slightly confusing battle sequences in the first hundred pages or so. I’m not a huge fan of war novels or miniseries, and the chaos and confusion of the battle is the point of the early scenes, but it makes for a bit of rough go reading-wise. Thankfully, the rest of the story has a pretty brisk pace, and we learn more and more about the early war scenes and the people who lived them.
I think one of Nesbø’s strengths is his characters. Hole sounds like the troubled cop I’ve seen in plenty of other novels, but he doesn’t feel like a cliche. He has a close colleague, Ellen, with whom he has a great working relationship. He has a sense of humor (Shania Twain music driving him crazy). He gets his drinking under control from time to time. The ancillary characters felt fleshed out too, except for one hateful bureaucrat.
My only quibble with the book is that the resolution of the plot is pretty convoluted, but I may be saying that because I had a difficult time getting into the wartime characters and their desertions or presumed desertions. I look forward to other books in the series, though I’ve heard they’re a mixed bag.