Man's compulsion to do what he considers good and right, even though it requires him to act in ways that society and the law consider morally and legally wrong, permeates this book on all levels, with several characters assuming this role of "Redeemer" in their actions throughout the novel. Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, in this fourth novel of the Harry Hole series to become available in English, introduces three seemingly disparate plot lines in this thriller set in Oslo--a hired assassin from Croatia is fulfilling contract killings in Europe and has just arrived in Oslo for his last job; the Salvation Army, its officers and soldiers, are trying to fulfill their mission by providing food, clothing, and shelter to those most in need of their help, no questions asked, and they are seeking some new leadership; and Harry Hole, an alcoholic police inspector, who is sometimes off-the-wagon, is still trying to find the Big Boss behind the gun-running and related crimes which brought down one of his fellow police inspectors in The Devil's Star, the previous novel in this series.
Murders link the three plot lines, which quickly begin to overlap. To add to the complexity (and sometimes confusion) of this very complex mystery, there are a number of characters who are similar. In the Salvation Army subplot, two brothers look almost identical, and both are in love with the same woman, though one of them may be a dangerous sadist. The woman, Thea, is also a member of the Salvation Army, and her brother Rikard is a major player. Another attractive young woman, the daughter of the Salvation Army Commander, is also involved in the romantic angles, and it is easy to mix up these characters, especially when their roles overlap.
The assassin who has come to Oslo has a characteristic called "hyperelasticity," which enables him to mimic with his facial structure, a number of different facial types, and descriptions of this person vary significantly when he commits a murder, raising questions about his true identity. In the third plot, Harry himself is still not exactly stable. Though he seems to be reconciled with the fact that his long-time love, Rakel, has written him off as an unacceptable suitor, Rakel's young son clearly still loves Harry, and Harry seems to be still pining for Rakel. Professionally, he must deal with an attack on one of his men.
Nesbo is a compelling writer, one who has completely mastered the art of creating suspense and propelling the action along. In this novel he does something new, however, creating short action scenes in which he does not always identify the main character, presenting information for the reader to process and hold in the back of his/her mind till another piece of the puzzle is revealed to connect with it. Harry Hole might ring a doorbell, for example, and in the immediate next scene, another person entirely will be about to answer the door. This is a clever technique for involving the reader, but it does sometimes create confusion by forcing the reader to backtrack to keep all the characters and their immediate stories straight. Eventually, the loose ends get tied up, but the extent to which the resolutions are realistic is an open question, and some readers may lose track of all the issues before the conclusion. Nesbo does reflect much of the atmosphere of Oslo and the attitudes of the police, as he has in the past, but overall he has a less broad sociological focus here. Exciting and atmospheric, the novel's scope seems to be narrower than in the previous novels.
on 5 April 2009
A Croatian hitman arrives in Harry Hole's home city of Oslo to assassinate an officer with the Salvation Army. Due to the vagaries of the Norwegian weather the hit man is unable to make his flight out from the city so he is forced to stay overnight. Only then does he realise he's blundered and taken-out the wrong man. At the same time Harry is investigating the apparent suicide of a drug addict.
From this Nesbo develops his plot complexities and takes us through his twists, where each time we believe (or are meant to believe) the hit man has been collared by the law, but hasn't. This is very much Jeffery Deaver territory - see `The Coffin Dancer' for example - but to be fair, Jo's reversals are much less `forced' than a lot of the American writer's. And, although some of the twists in `The Redeemer' are telegraphed, the author still serves up a real stunner at the book's conclusion, that I guarantee you won't see coming.
The book is shot through with real quality, and the whole Salvation Army milieu is brilliantly evoked. He also captures the drug-ridden, seamy underside of Oslo superbly and realistically.
In Harry Hole, he has created another great entry in the grizzled, ex-alcoholic, unlucky-in-love, detectives. In `The Redeemer' Harry joins the AA to resolve his problem - and this brings to mind, among others, James Lee Burke's, Dave Robicheux, and Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder. But, despite occasionally being derivative, Harry Hole is still one of the more multi-faceted and interesting detectives out there. And another plus is the fascinating and believeable back story he establishes for his Croatian hit man.
Such is the regard in which I hold the phenomenal Jo Nesbo, that although I was slightly disappointed with this latest translation, I still think it's worth at least four stars, and I almost gave it five. Gripping, with a superbly drawn sense of place and time, 'The Redeemer' is still good enough to knock the spots off most of the competition.
If you've never read Jo Nesbo before, then 'The Redeemer' would be a good introduction, and may well lead you towards investigating the three previously translated books. However, these form a sort of trilogy and should be read in the correct sequence. All I can say is this writer is now firmly fixed on my list of 'must read' authors, and I'm hungry for more from this world class talent.
on 8 January 2012
Like some other folk have said, this is the most disappointing Nesbo read so far. Harry Hole is a great character but we are expected to swallow some dodgy plot. The assassin finds Harry's address via a telephone directory...as if any cop would allow that to happen. The assassin also disappears too easily, or Harry gives up very easily when in hot pursuit. I was left thinking the author had to fill out the book so the killer could not be caught too easily.
Nevertheless, I look forward to reading my last harry Hole book, 'The Snowman.'
on 8 September 2009
You can read the Harry Hole novels out of sequence but it is far better to read them in the order they were written.
Sadly the first two of the series are seemingly unobtainable. The Bat Man being the first and The Cockroaches the second were either never translated into English and published or so few copies were printed there are none available second hand. If any one reading this has a copy of these books and wishes to sell or knows where I can get them please let me know.
The first available in English is the Redbreast, followed by Nemesis, next is Devil's Star and last is this one, the Redeemer. I believe the next has been published in Norway, the Snowman, and is to be published in the UK some time next year.
Nemisis was published in English after Devil's Star which is a great shame as the recurring theme of Hole investigating one of his fellow Inspectors kicks off in Redbreast and continues through Nemesis and reaches it conclusion in the Devil's Star.
Nesbo writes some of the best detective thrillers I have ever read. If you know Mankell's Wallander books you will really enjoy Nesbo. You will already be used to dealing with Scandanavian names and places which I found takes some getting used to as does the rather introspective style of writing with the hero examining his flaws and failings throughout the text. This may sound dull but far from it. Nesbo integrates his hero's flaws into the plots and his plots always take you to new and unexpected places.
Read but read after you have read Redbreast etc.
Amazon, if you have any influence with Random House or any other publisher please get Bat Man and the Cockroaches published in English and please get Snowman out as soon as you can!
Jo Nesbo usually produces a taut crime story filled with unexpected turns just to give his anti-hero Inspector Harry Hole a hard time.
Yet again in The Redeemer he succeeds very well. I wasn't too enthusiastic about the opening sequences but, that aside, once Harry moves centre stage, the story develops well. This time around he has a new 'boss' who, of course, gives Harry a rough ride. As ever, Harry is one step ahead, though, once more, people close to him are caught in the crossfire.
His love life remains a problem, his drinking remains a problem, his sense of justice remains a problem but his detective work notwithstanding keeps the reader turning those pages.
Nesbo always manages to convey his Norwegian country and its people in a well presented style, engulfing the reader in the atmosphere of a cold Christmas in Oslo this time.
The motive and resulatnt discovery of why the killings happen is pure Nesbo and it makes one appreciate the style of his writing. Add in the excellent translation from Don Bartlett and, yet again, we have a top class crime thriller from Scandanavia.