Nemesis is the fourth Harry Hole novel (pronounced something like "Huller", I recall reading somewhere), and the third that's been translated into English. And it's difficult to find a review that doesn't make note of that. You'd think publishers would listen up when people moan about this issue. Then, Nesbo's risen quite quickly in the crime fiction league tables, so they must be doing something right. Or: Nesbo's growing popularity is a result of the undeniable quality of the books, regardless of the quirky order you're forced to read them in. I prefer to think it's the latter option. Because, to be frank, they are all so damn good.
Nemesis begins with a bank robbery. The teller is given 25 seconds to hand over the money. She does it within the time, but the robber raises the gun to her head and shoots her anyway. Then he escapes, having left no forensic evidence whatsoever.
Meanwhile, while Harry's girlfriend is in Moscow fighting for custody of her son, Harry hooks up with an old flame, Anna. As you do if you're an alcoholic cop on the route to trouble. He spends the night with her, but come the morning when he wakes up in his own bed, he can't remember a thing. Later on, she is found dead in her apartment, an apparent suicide. But Harry smells a rat. And as the bank robberies continue, he must quietly investigate Anna's death without drawing attention to himself. But that'll be difficult. Because someone's sending Harry strange emails. Someone who knows...
Jo Nebso really is a remarkably good crime-writer. The nearest British comparison is Ian Rankin, but there are many areas where Nesbo is simply better. He may not capture Oslo in quite the same way as Rankin does Edinburgh, or have quite the same... thickness, in his portrayal of periphery characters, but his plots are immense, thrilling beasts, and Hole is just as compelling a character as Rebus if not moreso. And Nesbo is just as good a writer, with just as compelling an insight into human beings. So far, none of Nesbo's novels have clocked in at under 450 hardback pages, and it's hard to imagine even Rankin sustaining a plot for that long in quite the same way. Writhing basilisks, there's always a new twist. The fact that he can sustain a plot for so long, constantly cutting it up and confounding expectations, is remarkable, and made all 474 pages of Nemesis a complete pleasure. To sustain the suspense, the pace, the tension, the interest, over so long, and to offer excitement from page one, is a stunning achievement. He shows a constant talent to surprise and shock, to pull the rug out from under you again and again in an almost Deaver-esque way, but manages to do it (unlike Deaver) in a way that doesn't feel contrived or as if you're just watching a particularly well-made but heartless piece of clockwork. There's a passion for the genre here, and it comes across in spades.
Nemesis is as thrilling and gripping as his previously would lead you to hope. Harry may be your stereotypical alcoholic cop, but he still manages to feel completely original and as engaging as this kind of protagonist is able to be, which is rare, given that the genre is as saturated with them as their blood is with alcohol. A brilliant thriller rife with violence and vengeance, it may be lengthy but you won't want it to end.
on 25 March 2008
Tricky things translations: does the book you're reading carry the authentic voice of the writer, or has it become coloured by the translator? All I can say is that author Jo Nesbo appears to have been well served by Don Bartlett, the man chosen to render this Norwegian novel into English. Set largely in Oslo, 'Nemesis' is a tremendous read. It's full of everything the reader of crime fiction wants: false trails, neat twists, a complex plot. Every time you feel you've got a handle on one of the cases investigated, Nesbo confounds you with another twist you didn't see coming.
The staples of a great many British/American crime novels are in here: the flawed ex-alcoholic detective (the unfortunately named Harry Hole), internicine divisions within the investigating police department, a criminal mastermind still pulling strings from within prison... but Nesbo's writing transcends these cliches, and it's a genuinely thrilling, totally refreshing book, with a rich atmosphere that permeates every page. Scandinavians have a completely different mentality to the British, and this helps make the characters all the more compelling.
Nesbo's other previously translated books, 'The Devil's Star' and 'The Redbreast' are now high on my 'to buy' list and I greatly look forward to reading them.
I previously read both 'The Redbreast' and 'The Snowman' which I both enjoyed. However, I felt that Nemesis fell short of these other two which were both good. In this novel there are two main plot threads. The first involves a serial bankrobber and the second involves the apparent murder of one of Inspector Hole's former girlfriends. These are tenously linked by the character of Raskol, a Romany and career criminal, who is related to the dead woman and has detailed inside knowledge of the world of the armed criminal. There is also the ongoing thread of rogue detective Tom Waaler and Harry Hole's continuing search to bring the killer of Hole's former colleague to justice, a thread which was started in 'The Redbreast'. The major reason is that I thought this volume didn't reach the standard of the other two is that for me the plotting and characters' motivations here were rather unbelievable resulting in what I perceived as plot flaws. Unfortunately it is difficult to elaborate without plot spoilers. Anyway, I find the character of Harry Hole, the Rebus of Oslo, and his continuing rivalry with Waaler and Iversson interesting enough to carry on and read 'The Devil's Star'. Incidently, as others have noted, the series has been issued out of sequence in English translation. As I understand it 'The Redbreast' was the first, 'Nemesis' the second and 'Devil's Star' the third, although they haven't been published in this order in the UK. Ordinarily this may not matter, but it does here because the Waaler story line provides a continuous thread and therefore they really need to be tackled in the order they were written. This seems a puzzling publishing decision.
on 10 March 2008
Just finishes this book. Excellent read, it kept me on edge as Nesbo's hero - Harry Hole - solves two Oslo crimes, one a bank robbery in which a female is killed, the other the apparent suicide of an old girl friend.
Kept me on my toes to the very last chapter.
There were some inconsistencies with the plot which I only resolved when I found out that 'Nemesis' actually comes between the other two Harry books - 'The Redbreast' and ' The Devil's Star'.
I'll now have to re-read 'The Devil's Star' to sort out Harry Hole's continuing investigation of the murder of his colleague Ellen Gjelten in the earlier book.
My advice? Try the read the books in chronological order.
I do hope that the publishers release Jo Nesbo's next two Harry Hole books in the right order!
on 9 February 2012
Following on from 'Redbreast', Nemesis gives us a mystery involving old girlfriends; serial bank robbers; jailed gypsies and Norwegian cops.
By far the most interesting aspect of this one is the exceptionally large fusiform gyrus of Beate Lonn. Tremendous character.
Anyway, others have done the critiques much better than me, so dispel your fears about the bad reviews, launch into this and enjoy it.
A detective who;
Is a recovering alcoholic with the occasional lapse
Doesn't get on with most of his colleagues
Has a very tangled and difficult personal life.
Defies his superiors and gets into all sorts of bother
Despite all this is the brilliant maverick who ends up solving the case through some inspired insight not available to others.
Yes, Harry Hole (possibly the worst name for a crime fiction hero ever) is a veritable cornucopia of detective clichés.
Let me add a few clichés of my own to describe this book.
Intelligent, enthralling, page-turner, gripping, thrilling; in other words just a fantastic read.
Jo Nesbo creates a real believable world in this novel. There is a real sense of place and the reader feels as if he is walking down the streets of Oslo with Harry Hole. It is one of those novels where I really felt as if I was living in a world created by the author.
The plot is great too, with a plethora of twists and turns; mostly unexpected but all believable. The characterisation is similarly excellent with an excellent supporting cast of characters all of whom have interesting slants on life and the story unfolding around them. Relationships seem like the real world with a mixture of the petty, the dislikeable and the noble.
This is a truly excellent novel, brilliantly written (and a round of applause please for the translator, Don Bartlett) which kept this reader hooked throughout. I'll have to go and read the rest of the series now. I simply could not recommend this highly enough.