Th Redbreast (Harry Hole #3), by Jo Nesbø

Five stars

With Harry Hole focussing his attention on Norwegian soil, Nesbø brings the third book in the series to the writer’s attention. After a heroic act during a political summit, Hole is promoted to inspector and moved to the POT, a security directorate. In his new role, Hole begins an investigation into rumours that a high powered rifle has been brought into the country and may be used in an assassination attempt of some sort. Working in conjunction with his former partner, Ellen, they discover that all roads lead back to a man named ‘the Prince’, though Hole is unable to uncover this individual’s real identity. Ellen inadvertently stumbles upon a major clue, but is attacked before she can pass it along to Hole, who grasps at any clue he can to close the case. At this same time, Hole becomes involved with a colleague, Rakel, and her son, Oleg. This relationship blooms and fades throughout the novel, as Hole tries to synthesise all that is going on in his professional and personal lives. Alongside this storyline, Nesbø tells a tale of a handful of Norwegian soldiers who chose to fight with the Reich after Norway’s capture by German forces in World War II. These men and their lives weave a complex story that spans sixty years, one which eventually pulls Hole into the centre, as the soldiers are being murdered, one by one. Who is the Prince and how does it tie into the rifle imported from South Africa? Will Rakel be a new addiction that Hole cannot shake? Will these traitorous soldiers ever be safe in the country on which they turned their backs? Nesbø has answers, but also a handful more questions, for the reader, as the novel takes turns never seen in the series to date. A must-read by all series Harry Hole fans, thought its depth and complexities leave the previous two novels in the proverbial dust.

There is no question why or how Nesbø won significant awards for this novel. Its complexities and detailed plot lines make this a stellar piece of writing, no matter the language in which it is read. Nesbø finally shows off how Scandinavian writing is so much more nuanced and complex, and forces the reader to dig deeper to pull out all the clues to craft a successful thriller. Hole and his character receive a multi-faceted exploration, alongside a rich and controversial historical review of Norway at the height of World War II. Nesbø adds a number of characters whose importance will become apparent in subsequent novels (so I have heard) and does so in a fluid manner, setting the scene for some Oslo-based mysteries, rather than flitting off to the vast reaches of the globe. While the historical story seemed to drag at times, its importance becomes readily apparent as the climax of the novel approaches and the patient reader will be rewarded for the delay. A thoroughly stunning piece of work that has breathed new life into the series for me and those who have come to respect Harry Hole up to this point. No matter what his past has shown, Hole is a man who has much more to show and with seven more novels, Nesbø has the time to peel away new layers to entice his fans.

Kudos Mr. Nesbø for this novel that does not give up from the beginning until the final sentence. You are to be applauded for your hard work and significant effort.