Knife (Harry Hole #12), by Jo Nesbø

Eight stars

Jo Nesbø returns with yet another of the Harry Hole novels, as intriguing as it is dark. When Harry wakes from a drunken stupor, covered in blood, he is unsure what’s happened. Could it have been a bar fight gone wrong, or perhaps something a little more dastardly? While he shakes out the cobwebs, there is news on the crime front, when a body is discovered with its neck slit and a massive stab wound in the stomach. Harry learns of this and seeks answers, particularly when he discovers the victim is someone close to him. While Harry is now stuck working cold cases, he continues probing into this active investigation, which turns up an old nemeses. Svein Finne was an early criminal that Harry caught when he was new to the scene, learning the ins and outs of this most notorious criminal mind. Finne, nicknamed ‘The Fiancé’, would choose his female victims and violently rape them, in hopes of making them pregnant. Thereafter, he would threaten to harm the women, should they in any way report him or terminate their pregnancies. Finne served his time and is now out on parole, just in time to strike again. As Harry pieces together the elements of a murder, a woman comes to report a rape that has Finne’s trademarks all over it, but recants and leaves the authorities baffled as to how they might proceed. With fire in his eyes, Harry strikes and tries to secure an arrest, though things fall flat. With little to show for his actions, Harry falls into a deep depression, coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Evidence points that the blood on him was that of the victim, which only furthers his grief. Left despondent, Harry wonders if he would be better off dead, taking matters into his own hands while he is on the lam. In a race for the truth, Harry is a pawn in a larger game, one that could see the bodies pile up as the murderer watches with glee. Nesbø is masterful at spinning this dark web of deception and mystery, perfect for fans of his work. Recommended to all those who love Scandinavian thrillers that pack a punch from the opening sentence.

I have long been a fan of Jo Nesbø and his writing, even though it is much heavier than many of the novels I read. The reader is forced to focus intently in order to ascertain all the nuances found within the narrative. With nothing apparently lost in translation, this Norwegian thriller keeps the reader guessing throughout while showing the depths to which Harry Hole can find himself when things do no go his way. Harry remains a stunning member of the police, though his skills are always in question when drink enters the equation. That being said, Harry seems able to push the haze aside and make something of himself, though this might be the end of his luck, as personal angst acts as a anchor to drag him into the depths of his melancholy. Others around him seek to lighten the mood—or make it darker, depending—and shape the narrative effectively. Nesbø chooses a wonderful cast of characters to portray the themes he has in mind, as well as introducing the reader to one man who has haunted Harry Hole for many years. The plot of the story worked well, keeping me intrigued while also wondering if things would remain gloomy throughout. Nesbø does so well with the darkness and angst-filled stories that I could never tell when I ought to pause, worried I would miss some enlightening aspect. For those not familiar with Harry Hole or many of these Scandinavian noir thrillers, I would recommend walking back to the start of the series, as things definitely need context before popping up here, twelve novels in.

Kudos, Mr. Nesbø, for keeping my attention throughout and helping me see another side of Harry Hole. I never tire of your work and hope you’ll keep the novels coming.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: