Review: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo.jpgFour years after Police, Harry Hole returns in The Thirst, a bulky but gripping 500-pager packed with so many twists within twists, it’ll make even the sagest crime reader’s mind boggle. It’s not quite vintage Jo Nesbo, but it’s a fine return for his beloved character, and those who’ve enjoyed the preceding ten novels will enjoy Harry’s eleventh case.

The Thirst picks up from the end of Police, when escaped convict Valentin Gjertsen was about to rape the daughter of his psychotherapist. Gjertsen’s still at large in The Thirst, lying low and having undergone radical surgery to render himself unrecognisable. Following a series of women are murdered in their homes after Tinder dates, Harry Hole is called out of retirement to aid the investigation. The whole city is on red alert because of the killer’s methods: a set of iron jaws. When a ‘V’ signed in blood, as well as Gjertsen’s blood, are revealed at a crime, the case suddenly becomes personal for Harry. It’s a declaration of war from his old nemesis, the one who got away. But Gjertsen’s never displayed the tendencies of vampirisim before — so what’s changed this time?

The ‘A Plot’ — the hunt for the killer — is brilliantly constructed, even though the final revelation doesn’t quite land with the intended impact; not that it’s signposted, just that by the time Nesbo starts wrapping up his story, there are only so many suspects left to choose from. The novel’s biggest issue is that its burdened by so many subplots; Harry’s wife is suddenly taken ill and placed into a coma early on in the book; Police Chief Mikael Bellman peruses his nomination as Minister of Justice; Katrine Bratt is still recovering from events in The Snowman; and that’s barely scraping the barrel. There’s just a little too much here, which slows down the chase for the killer.

Having upped the ante with the previous novels in the Harry Hole series, The Thirst feels like Nesbo tapping the brakes just ever-so-slightly. All the elements that have won his novels millions of fans are here; this one just lacks that special something that made books like The Snowman and Police stand out. Even so, it’s great to have Harry Hole back, and a middling entry in this distinguished series remains a cut above Jo Nesbo’s  competition.

ISBN: 9781911215295
ISBN-10: 1911215299
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 544
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 20-Apr-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

Midnight SunLike Blood on Snow, Jo Nesbo’s Midnight Sun, is a pleasingly predictable, bite-sized noir novel. It lacks the moral complexity of The Son and the rich characterisation demonstrated in his long line of Harry Hole mysteries, but then, it never aspires to anything more than the sum of its parts: a stripped-down, raw and relentless story of redemption.

Dubbed a sequel to Blood on Snow, Nesbo’s latest can be read as a standalone. While the enigmatic, violent crime lord known as The Fisherman appears in both novels – more of an ethereal presence than a tangible one – Midnight Sun spotlights a new protagonist. Jon – an unlikely assassin in The Fisherman’s arsenal of thugs – has fled to a remote corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north the sun never sets. He betrayed The Fisherman, ultimately for nothing, and will spend the rest of his life constantly looking over his shoulder. The Fisherman has an extensive reach, and an even long memory.

Jon hopes to find sanctuary in this isolated village; hopes he’ll be welcomed into the fold, and accepted as an introvert. But these townspeople are immersed in a religious sect; devout in their ways, and not entirely hospitable to strangers. With The Fishermen’s thugs closing in, Jon must rely on the kindness of a bereaved mother and her young son to survive; and live with the consequences of involving them in The Fishermen’s quest for vengeance.

Simple in premise and execution, Midnight Sun is nonetheless a sterling reminder of Nesbo’s talent. It will not go down in the pantheon of classic crime novels, but it’s riveting while it lasts, and will leave readers chomping at the bit for his next full-length epic.

ISBN: 9781846559914
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage
Publish Date: 5-Nov-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

Blood on SnowIn lesser hands, Blood on Snow could have read like a substandard regurgitation of noir fiction from yesteryear. But it’s Jo Nesbo at the helm of this ship – author of ten Harry Hole mysteries, and two standout standalone thrillers, including last year’s brilliant The Son – so this story about a fixer named Olav possesses a certain credibility, and benefits from his deft prose and proven storytelling prowess. There’s no pretense; Blood on Snow is a short, sharp and brutal piece of noir fiction, unlike anything else in Nesbo’s catalogue.

Blood on Snow is narrated in the first-person, in the noir tradition, with Olav talking to the reader, admitting his inadequacies and detailing some of his inner truths. Despite the novel’s low page-count, Nesbo packs in a substantial amount of character development, and Olav is rounded into a cohesive whole, albeit one with more than a few quirks and an underlining darkness.

Olav is a fixer – a killer, in layman’s terms – for one of Oslo’s major kingpins. He’s not an especially intelligent man, but a successful career as a contract killer relies more heavily on instinct rather than smarts, so he gets by – just. His moral compass is certainly askew, but not as unaligned as his profession might suggest, and contrary to his first appearance, there’s a lot of depth to the character. The life of a fixer is, necessarily, a lonely one. But Olav dreams of finding a woman: someone to love, and love him in return. And when he gazes upon his latest target, he thinks he’s found her: the one. This is a problem, of course – but not just for the obvious reason. Yes, Olav is destined to eliminate this woman, which isn’t a great start for any relationship; but the woman also happens to be his boss’s wife. So, to say Olav has a problem is an understatement, which multiplies as Nesbo piles on his protagonist’s ill-decisions and perpetual betrayals from supposed allies. As you would expect, come the final pages, the body count is high.

The latest Jo Nesbo isn’t the multi-layered crime epic readers might expect, and indeed Harry Hole fans might lament this change of pace. Blood on Snow is pared down, raw, but undeniably satisfying. It’s fleeting, but highly recommended.

Random House Australia

Review: The Son by Jo Nesbo

The SonTHE SON is a pulsating crime novel, epic in its emotional scope and moral complexity; a novel I thoroughly enjoyed, and admired for its sheer craftsmanship. Jo Nesbo balances a huge cast of heroes and villains, allowing each of them their moments under the spotlight, weaving their distinct stories into an intricate, but marvellously palatable narrative that resonates long after the final page is turned. Good and evil are almost entirely nebulous here; the characters in THE SON exist in a world of grays.

Sonny Lofthus is the focal point; other characters are sucked into the vortex he creates when, after being imprisoned for over a decade for crimes he didn’t commit, content to live the rest of his days in this desolate landscape, he learns a long-hidden secret concerning his father and escapes. On the outside, he becomes vengeful crusader, hunting those responsible for his life’s disorder. Enter the principal investigator, Simon Kefas – who knew Sonny’s father – THE SON opens hinting at a standard cat-and-mouse affair, cop versus vigilante, but it becomes something much more convoluted and darker – something more potent and memorable.

I haven’t read all of Nesbo’s novels, so labelling it his best might seem shallow; but he’ll be hard-pressed to top THE SON. It’s thrilling and absorbing, filled with characters you’ll care about, with an ending you won’t expect. Undoubtedly set to be one of my favorite novels of 2014, and it’s pushing for a place in my All Time Top 10.