If you are looking for a new addiction, I suggest picking a book from the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø. Just to make things clear: don’t get mad at me about the name. I have no idea how that translates from Nesbø’s native Norwegian (you’ll need to ask translator Don Bartlett about that), but even if you never read a word of what is rapidly becoming my favorite crime series, you’ll never forget that name, will you? It kind of crawls into your cerebellum and takes up shop whether you want it to or not, just like the character bearing the name.
Harry Hole is a maverick Oslo, Norway detective who is a brilliant loose cannon, not above bending rules and administering bits and pieces of rough justice when called for and the opportunity presents itself. The series has been printed in the United States “out of order” (the newly published THE REDEEMER originally saw the light of day in 2005), but don’t wait until all of the literary rights are sorted out; grab the book and dig in. You can re-read all of the volumes in order later. And you will want to do this, I guarantee it.
"By the time you reach the conclusion, you’ll be amazed by and a little dizzy from all of the twists and turns that Nesbo has put you through, but you’ll be the more entertained for it."
THE REDEEMER is possibly Nesbø’s most complex and fully realized work to date. It begins with a Croatian assassin whose final job takes him to the streets of Oslo. He completes his mission and then discovers two things: his flight home is delayed due to snow, and he has killed the wrong man. The assassin --- who may or may not be the redeemer of the title --- is duty bound to complete his assignment. Meanwhile, Hole is tasked with heading the investigation into the hit, initially being unaware of what has occurred and the specifics of it all. Nesbø gives the reader just a bit more information than Hole possesses, with an occasional bit of sleight-of-hand and misdirection. When he offers you a piece of birthday cake, beware the razor blade next to the hand grenade inside.
Meanwhile, Hole’s protector in the Oslo Police Department has retired, and his new superior seems to be waiting for one misstep to occur in order to give him a reason to rid the department of the brilliant but troublesome investigator for good. Or is he? Things slide back and forth a bit, and that character you found so likable in chapter 5 might not be so warm and cuddly by chapter 18.
Of course, not everyone makes it to the end, so it’s best not to get too attached to anyone as you proceed through this wonderfully violent and demented work. Did I say demented? A little over halfway through, Nesbø throws a particularly grisly murder into the mix, featuring a motif that never fails to make me scream. You’ll know it when you get to it. The purpose is to let us all know that our redeeming assassin is not the only person roaming the streets of Oslo with homicidal intent. By the time you reach the conclusion, you’ll be amazed by and a little dizzy from all of the twists and turns that Nesbø has put you through, but you’ll be the more entertained for it.
Admittedly, the first chapter or two might be a little difficult to sort out, as Nesbø engages in a bit of a stream-of-consciousness do-se-do among several characters, which must have given the translator fits. Stick with it, though, as all is made clear in short order. If it’s nothing more or less than Nesbø showing off a bit stylistically, he has certainly earned the right. Taken as a whole, THE REDEEMER just might be the ultimate hitman novel.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 24, 2013