Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø has penned another page-turner. This man is simply brilliant when it comes to plotting and characterizations.
There’s not one boring scene in his books. None. Nada. Nesbø’s thrillers are appealing to me for several reasons but the two top reasons why I like his books are that they are set in Oslo and that his stories are character driven. Yes, of course I tripped up over Norwegian names but that was not a distraction nor a problem.
The series is told in third person and follows Oslo Inspector, Harry Hole, a man who chain smokes, drinks and likes to buck authority. Hole has a lot of personal demons to contend with and he’s not a very sociable guy. He’s more of a loner. His peers may not like him much but Harry is one of the best police officers in Oslo.
In “The Redeemer,” Harry Hole has to hunt down a professional contract killer who is targeting a soldier working for the Salvation Army in Oslo. This story is full of explosive secrets and if you’ve read this author before, you can be prepared to “expect the unexpected” because this book is even more tightly plotted than Nemesis (another book in the series I rated a B+).
The one thing I like about a villain is a smart one. Nesbø’s villains are not so easily characterized in black or white. Nah, it’s not that simple. Sure, you can hate them for their horrible acts, but every character in here has a story. The villain in here, who happens to be a war refugee, has a story, too. A painful one that involves war (the Croatian/Serb conflict), the loss of a father and the loss of a commander and friend. The villain gained my sympathy. Imagine that.
The villain in here is also driven and fearless. He just will not stop. He is referred to reverently as the “mali spasitelj” aka “the little redeemer” because when he was a kid, he exploded twelve tanks when the Yugoslav army tried to take over Vukovar. Of course when the Serbs took over the city they tried to find him but didn’t. For all anyone knows, the redeemer was a myth. Not real.
I’m not all that well versed in foreign affairs so I found any background the author wanted to share about the Croatians vs Serbs war quite interesting. I didn’t know all that much, as far as the inner workings of The Salvation Army outside of their pietism and providing refuge to war veterans/refugees. Many of the characters in here are deeply involved with the Salvation Army. Much of the story is told in part about a rivalry between two brothers. It’s also a rivalry for power within the organization itself.
The story is multi-faceted as it involves betrayal, redemption and blood vengeance. The story starts off ominously enough with the rape of a 14 year old girl. The story then moves forward to the present where a Croatian refugee is hired as a contract killer who blunders badly when he takes out the wrong target. How could this happen? I’m not telling. I will say that he stays in Oslo to correct the mistake.
But enough of the plot, let’s talk about Harry. After all, he is the star of this series. At Police HQ there’s been some staff changes. Old supervisor out, new supervisor in. Since I didn’t read the book prior to this one (The Devil’s Star), all I can say is that a lot happened in that book.
Harry took out a corrupt set of cops that included a star detective who labeled himself the “prince.” As far as Harry is concerned, though, where there’s a “prince there’s a King.” Meanwhile, Harry gets partnered with Jack Halverson to track down the contract killer who is hunting a Salvation army officer. The two men, Halverson and Harry, reluctantly become friends.
The ending is as usual: edge of your seat, can’t turn the pages fast enough suspenseful. All these loose threads that Nesbø leaves dangling throughout the story is somehow neatly tied together pretty tight. I honestly didn’t see this one coming – the twist at the end. It places Harry in a different light for me.
There’s a lot more of the story that I left out as Nesbø’s stories are not so easy to discuss without spoiling. I just know that I love his work and that no amount of words from me can do this book justice. If you’re a mystery reader looking for a page-turner then look no further than this book or any book by this author. After reading two of his books this man has impressed the hell out of me as his stories are so intricate and so complex and so rich. I love it.
Also, Harry Hole makes a great antihero. Sure, he is justice for all but is fully aware of the limitations of the law and is somewhat jaded. I so enjoy the psychologist, Stale Aune, who assists him on his cases. His insight into the criminal mind is interesting and thought-provoking. This paragraph struck a chord and admittedly, it’s not the best part of the book to quote but nonetheless here it is,
“An angry, unstable contract killer? Well, I suppose there are unstable airplane pilots and unstable managers of nuclear power stations, too. Not everyone is in a job they ought to be in, you know.
“I’ll drink to that.”
As for the violence in this series thus far, it varies but most of it is has been off to the side or low key. But then I read Karin Slaughter and Chelsea Cain whose violence swings between graphic to very graphic to off the chart, OMG how the hell did they do that type of violence. Sigh.
THE REDEEMER is the fourth book in the Harry Hole series. For once in my life I’m going to strongly suggest you start this series (if you’re interested) with the first book, THE REDBREAST. My grade, solid A. I’m well into the third Harry Hole book, THE DEVIL’S STAR. Sorry to say, it’s not available new in the US. UK only.
The Harry Hole series order is as follows: The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star and The Redeemer. Only two of these books are available in ebook at your favorite etailer. Edited to add for CORRECTION: I had originally stated in the review that Halverson was a supervisor of Harry’s but he was not. Rune Ivarrson was Harry’s supervisor. Sorry for the confusion.