I was going to begin this review by comparing Jo Nesbo to an American author. I ultimately decided that would be wrong and unfair to both gentlemen. POLICE, the latest installment in Nesbo’s Harry Hole canon, stands by itself; it’s one of the best books of 2013 and my favorite in the series thus far.
Before you clear the decks for several hours and sit down with the book, I highly suggest you stop reading this review and instead delve into PHANTOM, the immediate predecessor to POLICE. Upon completion of it, you will ask yourself what exactly this latest work is all about. Doesn’t the series end with PHANTOM? One would think so. Any confusion you might feel is not due to stalwart Don Bartlett’s perfectly rendered translation of either novel. No, the etiology of this mischievous confusion begins and ends with Nesbo, who merrily leads the reader down a number of paths, misdirecting not at every turn but at just enough of them that even the most innocent declaratory sentence becomes suspect.
"Frightening, darkly funny and horrifying, this is one of those novels that should not be at the top of your 'must read' pile; it should be in your hands, and your face should be in the book now."
There is plot upon plot layered in POLICE, the major one --- other than the ultimate fate of Harry, that is --- being that someone is murdering policemen in and around Oslo. There is a method to this madness as well. The murders are occurring at the sites of unsolved killings, and the victims are police officers who were part of the original investigations. There is no lack of suspects, either; they range from a deranged convict who either died in prison or engineered an ingenious escape, to a suspended cop who is simply not right mentally. And as for Harry’s apparent demise? If it happened, he took some secrets with him; if not, there are a number of folks, including Mikael Bellman, Oslo’s very crooked new chief of police, who certainly wish he was dead.
The problem, however, is that Harry’s old investigative team really needs him to catch the killer, who thwarts detection and arrest at every turn while seemingly murdering officers at will. But what a magnificent chase it is, with or without Harry. You’ll barely miss him, particularly during the last two-thirds or so of POLICE, as Nesbo adds and discards suspects with abandon and actually eliminates another member of the team. Or does he? I’m still not sure. In fact, by the end of the book, I was certain of only three things: 1) it had a happy ending; 2) the climax is potentially horrifying; and 3) Nesbo has left enough issues dangling to play out over at least another three books.
POLICE does what all good books do: grabs readers by the lapels and pulls them into the very binding of the book. Frightening, darkly funny and horrifying, this is one of those novels that should not be at the top of your “must read” pile; it should be in your hands, and your face should be in the book now. Do not miss it under any circumstances.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 17, 2013