The Bat (Harry Hole #1), by Jo Nesbø

Four stars

In my other binge-reading project of the winter, I thought that there was no better time to explore the Harry Hole series by Norwegian Jo Nesbø. I had heard much about the series, and with a keen interest in all things Scandinavian when the thriller genre is involved, I thought I could do no wrong. As the series begins, Harry Hole (that’s two syllables, Holy) finds himself in Sydney, Australia where he’s been sent to represent the Royal Norwegian Police Directorate to investigate the murder of a Norwegian national. Working alongside some of Sydney’s finest, Hole discovers that there may be a serial rapist and murderer on the loose, whose penchant for blondes leaves a trail that grows every few days. Alongside the murder investigation, Hole discovers a woman who pulls on his heartstrings and becomes an integral part of his time in Oz. The reader is also introduced to Hole’s checkered past, including an addiction that almost got him fired from the force and one that reemerges at the worst possible moment. With no firm leads and Hole’s secondment running to an end, a serial killer continues to elude the authorities and baffle Hole to no end. While soaking up the history of this foreign land, Hole may be too distracted, which hinders his ability to bring answers to a grieving family back in Oslo. In this series debut, Nesbø tells a very interesting tale, both about his protagonist and the race for justice.

I was pleasantly surprised at Nesbø’s work and found that the story flowed very effectively, full of wonderful tidbits to lure the reader in a little deeper. Harry Hole is a complex man, whose background is multi-layered and will likely take the entire series to unravel. However, Nesbø does a stellar job by paving the way with a thorough glimpse into the man’s foibles, as well as the strengths that shape him. I cannot leave this review without pondering a glaring question that leapt off the page for me, especially as a reader who loves to immerse myself in a character. Why would Nesbø choose to use his opening novel and take Hole away from his native Norway? I could see this in the third or fourth novel, but the story begins and remains in Australia for its duration. I could never fully understand this, as it makes logical sense to lay some groundwork before taking the character out of his environs. Allow the reader to learn about local friends and family, plant roots before jetting off to places unknown. That said, perhaps Nesbø has a plan here and I am too cerebral in my analysis this early in the series.

Kudos Mr. Nesbø for a great opening novel. I cannot wait to get deeper into the series to see what else you have in store for us.