This is my review of The Devil’s Star: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 3) by Jo Nesbo.
I have a weakness for crime fiction and wanted to find out why Jo Nesbo has attracted so much attention. Devil's Star happened to be available, so I hope that it does not matter unduly not to have started at the beginning of the Detective Harry Hole saga with "The Redbreast".
This story has two interwoven threads. The main one is the tracking down of a serial killer with a sinister line in carved pentagrams, star-shaped blood diamonds and severed fingers. The second thread is Harry's obsession with the unmasking of a corrupt colleague.
The Norwegian setting interested me – I had not realised that Oslo can get so hot and humid in summer. The pace is quite fast and I did not mind what some have called the disjointed approach, although switching "points of view" means that one becomes less "emotionally engaged" with any one character.
The plot is ingenious, sown with clues which become apparent in due course, and the occasional red herring. It is reasonably watertight (no joke intended since a waterbed plays a part) although the details of the serial killings and some of the more dramatic scenes are often somewhat implausible. The story is genuinely exciting in places – will a major initiative to foil a murder and catch the killer succeed or how on earth will Harry Hole survive to feature in the next adventure.
The quality of some of the writing is good e.g. of the drunken Harry Hole smashing a church door, or the psychiatrist explaining the mind of a serial killer. Other passages struck me as slipshod – this may be due to the translator not having an ear for fiction.
I sometimes felt that we are not meant to take the story too seriously anyway, plus some of the details are frankly disgusting and probably included for sensational effect. These will be minus factors for some people.
What bothered me most was that the interesting second thread of Harry's relationship with his corrupt rival Waaler is not developed as fully and well as it could have been.
Overall, this is a good example of effective pot-boiler fiction to read on a train with an eye open for the next stop, but falls short of "great crime writing".