Nemesis, by Jo Nesbo

(Review of Jo Nesbo's Nemesis based on the original Norwegian edition.)

The bank robber points an AG3 at the head of a female employee in a bank in Oslo. He wants the money in the ATM within 25 seconds. It takes thirty-one. He shoots the employee.

Nemesis, by Jo Nesbo

A video of the robbery is the only clue Inspector Harry Hole and his colleague Beate Lonn has to go on in Nemesis. Grainy CCTV footage shows a man walking into the bank, and executing his hostage. Harry Hole, the tired policeman who drinks too much too often, spends a weekend studying the video. The female employee was six seconds too slow, and she had to die? That's the theory. But why do six seconds matter that much?

Then, while Harry's current girlfriend Rachel is away in Russia, an old flame gets in touch. Hole says yes. A mistake. Too much to drink, blackout, and then the ex is found dead in the bed - shot. Hole is in trouble. Yet again.

And now Harry begins to receive threatening e-mails. Is someone trying to frame him? As well, the bank robberies continue. Hole and Lonn seek advice from the infamous bank robber Raskol. And Hole becomes the subject of a crime investigation led by his longtime adversary Tom Waaler.

Nemesis is the third book in the series about Harry Hole (fourth in Norwegian, the sequence in the translations is off) by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, one of the biggest stars of Scandinavian crime fiction for the moment. We know Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole by now. And we like him. He is a fighter.

The story Jo Nesbo tells in Nemesis is exciting and complicated. The various threads are elegantly intertwined. The plot is full of stunning twists and turns. Nesbo's descriptions are sometimes cynical, sometimes ironic, and sometimes emphatic. Nemesis is extremely well written. It goes down like ice cream - time stands still in the company of Inspector Harry Hole!

Praise for Nemesis:

"The high-intensity acion is threaded through a series of Chines boxes revealing on false solution after another before the brilliantly inventive final twist" -- Kirkus reviews

Order Nemesis by Jo Nesbo from: amazon (US): Nemesis or amazon (UK): Nemesis.

About Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo (Nesbø) is a musician, songwriter, economist, and one of Europe's most critically acclaimed and successful crime writers today. He lives in Oslo, Norway.

His first novel featuring Police Detective Harry Hole was an instant hit in Norway, winning the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel—the most prestigious crime-writing award in Northern Europe. In 2004, The Redbreast was voted the "Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written" by members of Norwegian book clubs. Here is a link to the Salomonsson Agency's' Jo Nesbo website.

Bibliography, Jo Nesbo (adult fiction)

Jo Nesbo's books in order of original Norwegian publication: (English title and year of publication, Norwegian title and year of publication in parentheses. * means it is a Harry Hole novel, NT is not yet translated.)

  • The Bat Man (Flagger­mus­mannen - 1997)* NT
  • The Cockroaches - (Kaker­lakkene - 1998)* NT
  • The Redbreast - 2006 (Rødstrupe - 2000)*
  • (Karusellmusikk - 2001, short stories) NT
  • Nemesis - 2008 (Sorgenfri - 2002)*
  • The Devil's Star - 2005 (Marekors - 2003)*
  • The Redeemer - 2009 (Frelseren - 2005)*
  • The Snowman- 2010 (Snømannen - 2007)*
  • Headhunters (Hode­jegerne - 2008) 2011
  • The Leopard- 2011 (Panser­hjerte - 2009)*
  • Phantom - 2012 (Gjenferd - 2011 )*

Other good reviews of Jo Nesbo's books:
The Devil's Star, reviewed at EuroCrime
Nemesis, reviewed at Crime Critics, New York Times,
The Redbreast, review by New York Times,
The Redeemer, reviewed by The Independent, Times,
Interview, The Globe and Mail
See also the prizes Nesbo has received and Harry Hole's CV.

The Devil's Star, by Jo Nesbo

The Devil's Star, by Jo Nesbo
(Original title: Marekors.) Jo Nesbo (Norwegian name Nesbø), author of the best-selling series featuring Detective Harry Hole, has won many prizes for his novels, including the Glass Key Award, the Riverton Prize and the Norwegian Bookclub's prize for best ever Norwegian crime novel. His first novel published in English was The Devil's Star (it was first published in the UK in 2005), which has sold more than 100,000 copies in Norway alone. To get a perspective on this - that means 1 of every 45 Norwegians have bought it - if it sold at the same rate in the US, that would be 6.8 million books.

The key character in Nesbo's books, introduced to UK and US readers in The Devil's Star, is detective Harry Hole: an angry, hard-drinking, near alcholic, and off-the-rails detective who wants to play the game by his own rules (see Harry Hole's CV).

As The Devil's Star starts, it's a sweltering summer in Oslo when a young woman is found murdered in her flat. One finger has been cut off, and beneath her eyelid is a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five pointed star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with Tom Waaler - a colleague Harry suspects of running an arms smuggling gang and of having murdered his partner - and initially Harry Hole refuses to become involved. He does not want to work with Tom Waaler. But he is already on notice to quit the force and is left with no choice but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and go to work.

Five days later, a man reports his wife missing. When her severed finger is found wearing a ring mounted with the same star-shaped red diamond, it seems Oslo has a serial killer on its hands. The case in The Devil's Star revolves around a riddle of fives: five points to the star, five fingers on the hand, and every fifth day a new victim to be counted. In his pursuit of the truth behind these mysteries, Harry Hole unwittingly finds himself on the run from the police and forced to make difficult decisions about his future as a detective.

The Devil's Star is an extremely exciting and entertaining book, a great crime novel by a brilliant author that has recently been nominated for the Edgar prize! The plot is superb, the action is intriguing, inspector Harry Hole has plenty to deal with, and the story is told in a fascinating and appealing manner as well. I am sure Harry Hole will be as well received in England and the US as he has been in Scandinavia.

The Redeemer, by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo, whom many now claim is the top crime writer in Europe, does it again! The Redeemer (Frelseren) was a huge hit when it was published in Norway. Quite possibly it is the best among Nesbo’s books translated into English so far.

The Redeemer, by Jo Nesbo

The action in this book starts with two incidents taking place 12 years prior to the main plot in the book. The first is a rape of a 14 year old girl that takes place on a Salvation Army summer camp in Norway. We learn of the rape, but not who the perpetrator is, nor the identity of the victim. The second event is that a young Croatian boy destroys 12 Serbian tanks in Croatia.

Then, on a cold night, an officer in the Salvation Army in Oslo is murdered during a Christmas concert, shot in the head at point blank range. The murderer is a professional hit man who usually does not make mistakes. But this time he made one small mistake. As well, he was unlucky.

So Harry Hole and his team have their work lined up. Harry is pretty dry now, not drinking much. But, of course, he has other problems. He has a new boss, which he quickly turns into an enemy. And he is a little paranoid (which is good, in this case). A troublemaker, and certainly not one for teamwork!

In this case there is very little to work with. No immediate suspect, no weapon, no motive. And then the assassin discovers he has shot the wrong man, and Harry’s problems start for real. What follows is some really outstanding police work, utilizing modern surveillance technology to the utmost. And the hit man becomes increasingly desperate. He will stop at nothing to eliminate his target.

The Redeemer is, I think, Jo Nesbo's most gripping thriller yet. The descriptions and characters are good. The plot is rich, complicated and fascinating. As well, Jo Nesbo provides readers with some false clues to make it even more complicated. And the action is fast and very exciting. Also, Harry Hole is even more fascinating in this book than in the previous ones. And, as well, all the right ingredients are here: Lies, deceit, motives, revenge, murders, and skillful opponents. Go buy! A great read!

Praise for The Redeemer:

Hole in one! -- VG, Norway

The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo is now available at amazon US: The Redeemer.
You can also order from amazon UK: The Redeemer

The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbo

The Redbreast won the Glass Key award for the best Nordic crime novel when it was first published, and was subsequently voted Norway's best crime novel. This book was actually published prior to The Devil's Star in Norwegian, and we recommended you read this one first.

The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbø

The Redbreast has two parallel story lines, one starting during World War II, with Norwegians fighting for the Germans in Russia. The other story line in The Redbreast is current, and takes place among a group of neo-Nazis in Oslo. One of them is on trial for a vicious, unprovoked attack with a baseball bat on a Vietnamese restaurant owner, but is freed on a technicality.

Detective Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; a fairly mundane task for him, until a report of a rare and unusual gun sparks his interest. A rare, high-caliber rifle, favored by assassins, has been smuggled into the country. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. Harry suspects a connection. In an investigation that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. And more and more the two story lines are drawn together - what is happening today has roots in the old, almost forgotten history of World War II in Norway.

The Redbreast in some way resembles Henning Mankell's early Wallander novel,The White Lioness. Both feature leading men who are cops, both have a South African connection, and both involve racism, assassination, and weapons that are the tools of professional assassins.

The Redbreast is well written, very exciting, and has lots of humor as well. In Redbreast, Jo Nesbo is able to make us understand some of the troubling aspects of Nazism in Norway's past, and does a great job of weaving together past and present. His hero, Inspector Harry Hole, is very real and an interesting character. An entertaining but also illuminating crime book from a very talented author that makes time disappear while you are reading it.

Order The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo from amazon UK!

If you like Jo Nesbo, you may also want to have a look at Henning Mankell's The White Lioness.


Cindy (8/21/2011):

Loving the Harry Hole series! Am deep into the fourth one now - Redeemer - and the rest of life is on "pause" until I finish it! No laundry, no dishes, no gardening, no leaving the house! LOL Thank you for all the great reviews here!

Peter (8/21/2011)

There are great things in your future too, then: The Snowman and The Leopard!

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
The Leopard is available at Amazon UK! I've just read it; it's excellent! See the review of The Leopard

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