The Devil’s Star (Harry Hole #5), by Jo Nesbø

Eight stars (of ten)

In another sensational Harry Hole novel, Nesbø weaves a complex and highly captivating tale of a serial killer roaming the streets of Oslo. When a woman is found murdered in his apartment, the Criminal Division is called in to investigate. Tom Waaler heads up the group, who soon discover the victim has a severed finger and a red diamond in the shape of a pentagram–the devil’s star–shows up under her eyelid. Even with these interesting happenings, Harry Hole refuses to participate in the investigation, still smarting over the reprimand and threat of termination for falsely accusing Waaler of arms smuggling and murder of at least three people who can identify him. As more women turn up, with the same pentagram diamond on them, the team bandies around the idea that a serial killer may be on the loose. Due to its quaint nature, Norway has little experience with serial murders, though Hole is experienced and able to shed light on the case. With termination papers waiting to be signed, Hole received a reprieve only because the Chief Inspector is away and decides to put his animosity aside and assist with the case. As he revisits the crime scenes, Hole finds pentagrams in close proximities to the murders, leaving little doubt of their importance to the case. While he investigates, Hole is determined the mend the his strained relationship with his girlfriend, Rakel, and forge a stronger tie with Rakel’s son, Oleg. This begins somewhat effectively, but the job pulls Hole away as things get back on track. Hole makes a personal revelation that might pinpoint past and future murder scenes, as well as offering an inkling into who the killer might be. As Hole races to solve the case, he is approached by Waaler to join his illegal smuggling ring, sure that Hole’s reputation as a drunk will mire any action on uncovering Waaler’s true plans. With a suspect in custody, Hole is directed to pass a test of initiation, all in an effort to keep Waaler clear of any wrongdoing. Will Harry bring down the smuggling ring and how will this serial killer even be brought to justice? Nesbø brings the story to a crashing conclusion in this entertaining fifth instalment of the Harry Hole series.

Someone once told me that each Hole novel gets better and I have yet to prove that statement incorrect. The stories are intricate and the characters play numerous roles to build many storylines in an effective manner. Plots and subplots find themselves developing in tandem, with Harry Hole playing a role in many of them. The Hole character is one to marvel on, if only briefly. An admitted alcoholic with little desire to quit his vice, Hole is able to work through the haze and solve cases effectively, positing theories and character flaws effortlessly. The reader cannot help but indulge in the transformation that occurs before their eyes as Hole shifts from one extreme to the other within each of the novels. Of note, Hole is seduced by many a woman in his daily life, but is usually able to remember the passion that he and Rakel share, though the strain of things on that front make progress highly difficult. Nesbø effectively completes this trilogy within the larger Hole series, offering a fast-paced insight into the style of Oslo’s finest detective.

Kudos Mr. Nesbø for this hard-hitting novel. The action never lets up and Hole grows into his own the more I read of him.