Cockroaches (Harry Hole #2), by Jo Nesbø

Four stars

Nesbø brings Harry Hole back for another explosive mystery, again on the other side of the world. When Norway’s Ambassador to Thailand is found murdered in a brothel, the suspects and motives are plentiful while the political scrambling begs for a cover-up. In a country where all sexual proclivities can be met, both legal and illegal, nothing seems off limits, though with these secrets come great responsibility. Hole is sent to investigate, while keeping the Police Commissioner and Ministry of Foreign Affairs appraised. Acclimating himself to the Thai way of life and policing, Hole finds himself in a country where speed and succinct behaviour are anything but normal, leaving him to grasp at straws as he tries to nail down a murderer. With a sizeable Norwegian population living in and around Bangkok, Hole sifts through the ex-patriots to see who has ties to the Ambassador and how they might have been able to curry favours in order to advance their own agendas. The Ambassador’s family has a collection of secrets all their own, which create a new set of motives. Hole is left to speculate if there is a Thai connection or whether the clues point to a strong Norwegian suspect in the murder. In this novel, less an internal-struggle for Hole, Nesbø shows just how dedicated his protagonist is to getting the job done, even if others within his own community are happy to see him fail. Another wonderful piece by a stellar Scandinavian thriller writer that readers will enjoy.

For the second time in as many novels, Harry Hole is working away from his native Oslo, though this time the story has a much strong ‘local’ feel to it. Plunging into the sexual cesspool that is Thailand, Hole must navigate through a society where nothing is off the table, though everything is questionable, to find key players who might help flesh out the rationale behind a shocking murder. Secrets and lies fuel the story’s advancement, woven together in a highly-effective manner so as to keep the reader guessing whose alibi might hold firm and where the lies will lead. Nesbø pulls no punches in his social commentary of the country or its vast array of perverse possibilities peppered with a political aspect that tries to apply a layer of dignity to a bawdy situation. Hole brings out the best and worst in people as he navigates through his investigation, permitting the reader to see why he is such a curious character and one who struggles on so many levels.

Kudos Mr. Nesbø for keeping the action and thrills at the forefront of this novel. I hope the rest of the series is as fast-paced and filled with interesting nuances.