Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Stieg Larsson's brilliant Millenium Trilogy made Scandinavian crime fiction hip again. So, in the wake of his success (and the vacuum created by his untimely death in 2004), Jo Nesbo was brought in to fill the empty spotlight. With only mixed results, I am afraid.

I decided to start with Redbreast because it is the first book of his Harry Hole series that has been translated in English (although there had been two books previous to this one in Norwegian - and there are references to the hero's previous cases). The story may be a standalone but the character development suffers from this truncation.

The story of Redbreast steps on two timelines that slowly converge. One is the story of a group of young Norwegian Nazis fighting on the side of the Germans during WWII. The other is a mess of a police story where a mistake prone Harry Hole stumbles onto a case of the import of a vintage (and extremely expensive) sniper rifle and then manages to fumble most clues and miss a number of opportunities to solve the mystery long before its climax.

I am not going to continue with any more books by this writer. The narration feels forced, with a number of mood-killing reality TV references, predictable stereotypes and one-page chapters. What is worse, the characters are both underdeveloped and internally inconsistent. Nesbo is clearly not in Larsson's league.

I gave the book some extra credit for cantor. When the Germans themselves try to squiggle out of their national shame of supporting Nazism (not to mention still avoiding paying their WWII debts), it was brave for Nesbo to admit that the majority of Norwegians in the 1940's indeed supported the National Socialists and were willing collaborators of Hitler's vision.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book does not justify the admission price.

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