The Short Version: At the end of his rope, Detective Harry Hole looks like he’s finally blown every act of goodwill or camaraderie anyone has offered him. About to be fired from the police force and having seen his airtight case against Waaler fizzle out, his salvation – of sorts – comes in the form of a serial killer stalking the streets of Oslo. Meanwhile, his nemesis Waaler has offered him a partnership and he’s managed to stop drinking long enough to start working on the case – but it soon becomes clear that the case connects right back to the one he’s been working on for so long… and Harry Hole finally comes out in the lead.
The Review: Easily the best of the Harry Hole books so far. Easily. Hands down. Far and away. The end left me furiously turning the pages and barely stopping to catch my breath. No, seriously, I realized I was almost panting at the end of the novel – my blood was pumping, I was locked into this story in a way that only the best crime novelists can pull off.
I also now understand why Harper Perennial got these three books but not, unfortunately, the others in the Harry Hole series – these three form a loose sort of trilogy. The first two (publication dates still unknown for the US) are referenced often (especially the Sydney case) in this book and I wish I could read those… but these three books have the overarching story of Ellen, Harry’s former partner – the one murdered at the end of The Redbreast. We know that Tom Waaler was involved and Harry spends all of his time over the course of Nemesis and leading into this novel trying to pin Waaler for the crime (and for his general arms-smuggling ring). What I never expected is that this would all finally pay off – and come to a closure that benefits an inter-series trilogy like this one.
The relationship between Waaler and Hole develops most in this novel. To see Waaler trying to cajole Harry – and then to hear Harry (potentially…) agree to work with him – was stunning. The respectful near-Moriarty/Holmes relationship that they develop during the novel is… unsettling. For Harry and for the reader. It makes you stay on your toes and that’s all due to Nesbø’s impeccable plotting. He keeps it tense through the whole novel and I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know who the murderer was – and the overlapping pieces of the story were played in such a perfect way that tension just built. The fourth murder, for example, plays out on the page in such a way that you’re wondering if this is really going to be it, if they’re really going to catch him – and then it gets blown wide open in the most jaw-droppingly cool way.
If I had a complaint about the novel, I’d say that the wrap-up of the serial killer felt a bit much. It seemed a bit too perfunctory, there was a bit too much that was too jarring about it – but then, as I had that thought, I followed up with the realization that this novel wasn’t about the serial killer. It was about Hole and Waaler, completely – and boy oh boy does it pay off. The final twists and turns between Harry and Waaler are so fantastically done that I was, I admit, saddened to see it end. I won’t spoil it – I’ll simply suffice it to say that there is closure. Finite and complete closure. Wonderful closure. Brutal, heart-stopping, pulse-pounding closure. I can’t really talk any more without SPOILERS, which in this case I think would do a disservice to the trilogy as a whole, let alone this single book.
One thing I did notice in this book that stuck out, in a way that I never noticed in the first two Hole books (perhaps because it wasn’t there…?) was the almost Pushing Daisies-esque narration that sometimes popped in. The beginning, with the details about the water racing down through the house… the occasional “if this – but alas, this” kind of thing you could just hear Jim Dale saying… It isn’t jarring or anything and doesn’t stick out in a cutesy or weird way – but it was just fun to see the author winking at his reader now and then. So many authors forget that, at the end of the day, it is all about entertainment – and what’s a little wink now and then?
Rating: 5 out of 5. Like I said, the strongest of the three Harry Hole novels that Harper published. The final book of that ‘trilogy’ – and now Knopf is publishing them even further out of order, skipping over “book 6” and going right to book 7 with The Snowman… it pains me. But, regardless – this novel is worth your time. You have to read the first two books, of course, in order to know meet Harry and Ellen and Rakel and really come to understand what was happening previously that leads to the denouement found in the last hundred pages of this book. All told, though, this is easily the strongest “Nordic” crime trilogy since Larsson’s Millenium trilogy – but it’s actually (shhhh) better. It has a stronger writer and if it lacks an iconic ‘original’ character like Lisbeth, it more than makes up for it in Hole’s classical detective figure.