Publisher: Harper, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Where I Got It: Bought It
Why I Read It: Jill and Sandy recently contracted Nesbø fever so I had to see what the fuss was all about
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Detective Harry Hole embarrasses the Norwegian police force during a U.S. Presidential visit so he is reassigned to the Norwegian Security Service as an Inspector (a promotion that gets him out of the way and is supposed to shut him up). Assigned to investigate what should be a rather mundane case, Hole instead finds himself getting embroiled in a possible assassination plot that has its roots in World War II—involving some Norwegians who served on the Eastern Front in the service of the Germans. Plunging Hole into the world of Norway’s current crop of neo-Nazis and the men who served on the Eastern Front, he finds himself involved in a complicated case that gets more complex and confusing as time goes on—as well as threatening the lives of those that Harry holds dear.
Although this isn’t the first Harry Hole novel, it is the first one that was translated into English. Therefore, we’re plunged right into Hole’s world with little introduction. We quickly learn that Harry has a drinking problem, which he is fighting with the help of his brilliant young partner Ellen. The relationship between Harry and Ellen was the highlight of the book for me. Their partnership and banter felt authentic and livened up what was often a confusing read.
The confusion part came mostly from the events that take place in flashback during the war. We learn of several events that concern a small contingent of soldiers on the Eastern Front, which we know is related to Harry’s current case. Exactly how they are related becomes clearer as the novel progresses, but I personally struggled to keep up with everything. Nesbø gives his readers a lot of balls to juggle, and I confess I wasn’t always successful in keeping them all up in the air. In fact, I was actually thinking of quitting the book about midway through, but I kept on out of respect for Sandy and Jill. (In a later e-mail exchange with Sandy, she told me that The Redbreast was the weakest of the Nesbø books she’s read so far.) Part of my problem was the disorientation of being thrust into a series without being properly introduced to the main protagonist. Another was the Norwegian surnames (which was also a problem for me in the Steig Larsson books.) The other issue was the sheer complexity of the plot and my inability to hold it all together in my head.
However, there were moments where I started really getting into the story, and I began to glimpse what might have attracted Jill and Sandy. I liked that Nesbø didn’t choose to tell his story in a completely conventional way. At one point, each chapter is a series of answering machine messages. (This section was brilliantly done and really affected me emotionally.) So, although The Redbreast didn’t set my world on fire, I’m willing to give Nesbø another try. The next book in the series is Nemesis, so I’ll suppose I’ll give that one a go before deciding whether to continue with the series. (For the record, Sandy told me the order of the series for the books that have been translated into English is: The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star, The Redeemer, The Snowman and The Leopard.)
Fans of complex police procedurals, readers looking for the “next Steig Larsson” (for the record, I don’t think Nesbø is the next Larsson but I can see why people make that comparison)
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