A Cut above the Norm

This is my review of The Redbreast: Harry Hole 3 by Jo Nesbo.

There seems to be some confusion over the sequence of the Harry Hole novels, perhaps because they have not been made available in English in the same order that they were first published in Norwegian.

The Redbreast", the "first" novel in the Harry Hole crime series to be translated into English has a more interesting, plausible and moving plot than the "third" story, The Devil's Star which I read before this – unwisely as it almost put me off reading any more!

"The Redbreast" is an effective pacy mass market crime fiction, with a more serious thread running beneath it. Like Henning Mankel and Stieg Larsson, the author Jo Nesbo draws on the theme of pro-Nazi supporters in the Scandinavia that we always like to think of as so progressive and liberal. Nesbo's Norway has the added interest of a country that still feels some shame over being overrun by the Nazis, while the idealistic young men who went off to fight with the Germans against the Russians in the belief they were defending themselves against Communism have grown into pensioners who harbour resentment over being punished for this after World War 11.

I know I could have used Google, but would have appreciated a brief note at the end to summarise the key historical facts and political parties mentioned in the story.

Also, like some other readers, I found the flashbacks to the 1940s trenches in Eastern Europe a bit difficult to follow. I think this is because they are so short, which also means makes it harder to establish a rapport with (in some cases even remember!) the characters. Plus the details are no doubt deliberately confusing because Nesbo wants to sow clues, including red herrings, without giving away the final plot twists.

It took me a while to get into the plot – I think this happened when the flashbacks become less fragmented or cease for a while.

I liked the fact that Harry, although clearly a maverick, has not yet turned into the dreary drunk of The Devil's Star – although he has good reason to be depressed over the murder of a colleague, which I thought was described very vividly, with a strong build up of tension, but perhaps deserved to be revisited more at the end, to flag up the loose ends and suspicions that Harry carries into The Devil's Star.

For lovers of crime fiction in an interesting setting, I recommend this series, although I suspect the quality of the writing is much better in the original Norwegian. Also, I strongly advise you to read them in the right order, as I now intend to do – I think "Nemesis" comes straight after "The Redbreast" in time. If not, I'm sure someone will put me right!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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