4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"This is pretty hard to follow, Harry.",
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This review is from: Cockroaches: An early Harry Hole case (Harry Hole 2) (Hardcover)
English speakers were first introduced to the work of Norwegian author Jo Nesbo and his damaged main character Harry Hole, in 2006, with the publication of The Redbreast, the third book in the Harry Hole series, a novel so good that it won the award for Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written, as chosen by Norwegian Book Clubs. Now, after eight enormously successful novels in that series, Nesbo's publishers have published the first two novels of the series, The Bat (1997), and Cockroaches (1998), written when Nesbo was a much less accomplished novelist than he has become in the fifteen years that have passed since they were originally written.
In Cockroaches, Detective Harry Hole is chosen by the Norwegian Foreign Office to go to Thailand to investigate the murder of Norway's ambassador to Thailand, who has been found in a brothel with an elaborate old knife in his back. Hole himself is a psychological mess, an alcoholic trying to stay sober, and he has no interest in going to Thailand, even for a short time, to investigate this murder. He suspects he has been chosen because they expect him to fail so the foreign office can close the case without revealing nasty and embarrassing details publicly.
In Bangkok, Harry gets started on the case and quickly discovers that the ambassador was a practitioner of many perversions, including paedophilia and child pornography. The knife used to kill him belonged to the most powerful heroin dealer in history, who now finances most of the new hotels in Burma and manages the opium trade in the north of Thailand. In addition, the ambassador is addicted to gambling and is indebted to loan sharks. By the time the novel reaches page one hundred, a large number of characters and an equally large number of criminal enterprises and perversions have been mentioned as the investigation of the ambassador's murder goes off in many different directions. Eventually, even currency trading and the bankruptcy of a major firm have their moments in the spotlight.
Additional grisly murders take place as the novel progresses, but they are presented primarily through talk and not through action scenes, leaving the novel with surprisingly little drama, lacking the kind of tension which has made the other Harry Hole novels so compelling. As more and more threads take Harry in many additional directions, the reader quickly becomes as frustrated as the detective, since real connections which would draw the reader into all the threads and create interest in all the characters are unclear. Mistaken identity, betrayals, and surprise revelations do create suspense, but part of that suspense here lies in to trying to figure out how, if at all, Harry Hole is going to make sense of this whole, complicated mess.