Early last week Harper Collins hosted a release party for Joe Nesbø’s new book, The Devil’s Star – the latest in a series of novels about Norwegian detective, Harry Hole. I am always on the look out for a well written detective series, and while catching up with Amanda (Life and Times of A “New” New Yorker) and Jennifer (Bookclub Girl), I was also able to chat briefly with the author, who is doing his first tour in the United States. In taking a look at his books, I was impressed, because they all appear to have absorbing and intricate plotlines. Nesbø fretted that meeting the author might have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of his books, he couldn’t be more wrong.
In addition to The Devil’s Star, Nesbø has also written The Redbreast and Nemesis- and while both Nemesis and The Devil’s Star both seem like page turners, I opted to start at the beginning of the series with The Redbreast (at least the beginning as far as books available in the US - there are two others before this one). I have been on jury duty the past few weeks, so this seemed like as good a time as any to try this series out while I had a bit of extra reading time.
At 521 pages, this novel is a bit of a chunkster, but I didn’t mind that at all and finished it in just three short days. Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down! Harry Hole is a detective who is no stranger to trouble in his career. A recovering alcoholic, trouble has found him once again, and when a mission to protect foreign heads of state goes horribly wrong he is given a “promotion” and reassigned to a division where he will be safely out of the way.
Needless to say, he doesn’t stay out of the way, and when his new investigation into a rare Marklin Rifle leads to reports of that weapon being fired, Hole find himself in the middle of a far-reaching investigation that delves into Norway’s complex relationship to Nazi Germany during World War II, and current problems with the growing Neo-Nazi presence in Oslo and greater Norway.
I can’t wait to read the rest of these books, because I loved this novel. Nesbø doesn’t shy away from having a large cast of characters, but I was throughly engaged by each of them and caught up in their stories. He sets an excellent pace, and the suspense and mystery are wonderfully maintained even as he crosses back and forth between the present day and various points during Word War II. Figuring out how all of the characters fit within the mystery kept me guessing, and the writing is top-notch. I was often flipping back and forth to check up on certain things within the story and would find myself reading several pages that I had already read before I realized it and stopped myself.
The characterizations were complex and credible. I thought a lot about the different reasons that people and countries chose to enter the war on the sides that they did. There were definitely some really bad characters that I had mixed feelings about. That is something I enjoy in a novel, and think is the hallmark of a thoughtful author. There are a wealth of sub-plots within and they were all engaging and usually interconnected, but just a warning that if you like everything tidily resolved at the end you will be disappointed. There were a few story lines that really got to me, and I’m still waiting to see how they will be resolved. It’s a good thing that I have Nemesis all ready to go!
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