The Redbreast: A Harry Hole Thriller (Oslo Sequence 1)

The Redbreast: A Harry Hole Thriller (Oslo Sequence 1)

Book rating: 03 Paperback

By (author) Jo Nesbo, Translated by Don Bartlett

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Paperback $11.33
  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 640 pages
  • Dimensions: 110mm x 176mm x 40mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 21 December 2011
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099478544
  • ISBN 13: 9780099478546
  • Sales rank: 1,055

Product description

Not all angels are heaven sent. I am one such angel, and I have come to pass judgement on the living, and the dead...A report of a rare and unusual gun - a type favoured by assassins - being smuggled into the country sparks Detective Harry Hole's interest. Then a former WW2 Nazi sympathizer is found with his throat cut. Next, Harry's former partner is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night she was killed? As Harry's investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that the killer is hell-bent on serving his own justice. And while the link between the cases remains a mystery, one thing is certain: he must be stopped.

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Author information

Jo Nesbo, musician, economist and author of the best-selling series featuring Detective Harry Hole, has won many prizes for his novels, including the Glass Key, the Riverton Prize and the Norwegian Bookclub prize for best ever Norwegian crime novel. His first novel to be published in English was The Devil's Star, which sold more than 100,000 copies in Norway alone. He lives in Oslo.

Customer reviews

By Alex 18 Apr 2013 3

Detective Harry Hole is a recovering alcoholic, reassigned after a rather serious mishap involving the US Secret Service. In his new role, he is asked to investigate neo-Nazis, but what really piques his interest is the fact a high-powered rifle has been smuggled into Norway. Interwoven with Harry's story is a story of a WWII soldier who fought for the Nazis at the Eastern Front. As both tales unfold, bodies pile up and it becomes a case of identifying the killer.

The Redbreast is the third book in Jo NesbΓƒΖ’Ζ’Ζ’ΓƒΖ’β€šΓƒβ€šΓ‚ΒΈ's popular Harry Hole series but one of the first to be translated into English. Thankfully, it works as a standalone, though some plot arcs aren't resolved by the end of the book. Many of the characters feel "lived-in", a result, I imagine, of having appeared in previous books, and it's great - you get the sense that they were people before the events of the story. At the same time, there's enough description so that new readers won't feel like they're missing out. Previous events are mentioned only passingly; phrases like "what happened in Sydney and Bangkok" are thrown in but what they refer to aren't necessary to the understanding of the plot. No doubt readers of the previous books will get more out of it, but as a newbie I found The Redbreast to be very accessible on its own.

I don't usually read crime novels and I picked this one on the basis of its Norwegian setting. Fortunately, a sense of place did come through - and not in a down-your-throat sort of way - and this adds to the book's charm. If you're looking for a change from the usual American/British settings then you might want to give NesbΓƒΖ’Ζ’Ζ’ΓƒΖ’β€šΓƒβ€šΓ‚ΒΈ's Oslo a go.

The writing is simple and the chapters brief. The author gets to the point - no purple prose here - and delivers a healthy dose of humour at the same time. Characters are drawn with a deft stroke, their description precise and at times compellingly vile. Despite its length the book is an easy, comfortable read. The narrative jumps between different characters and time lines and the tension builds slowly throughout. I read the book intermittently, but I reckon it's better suited to being read at once - I found myself having to flip back and forth to keep track of who everyone was. As an aside, the WWII plotline starts in the thick of it - being woefully ignorant of WWII I didn't know what was going on at first and who the Norwegians were fighting for. If you're as clueless as I am, then a quick browse on wiki before you read the book might be helpful (basically, Norway was occupied by the Germans and there were Norwegians who fought both for and against them - though of course this is an extreme simplification).

Now I don't mind it when things take time to get going (indeed I prefer it to the common need to dazzle from the get-go), but the "nothing's happening" feeling at the start of the book may put off some readers. The plot and Harry's investigation feel directionless at times, but then I know nothing of being a detective so maybe that's just how it is. I found myself swept along with the book's internal logic and didn't think too hard on whether certain things made sense - which was perhaps for the best. The bits about Harry's personal life were fine, but as regards the crime aspect, I would've liked a bit more of a driving force. It's only towards the end that the book becomes more of a whodunit.

Crime tropes are in plentiful supply: there are Nazis both regular and neo (which the Norwegian angle rendered less off-putting for me), a long-suffering good-hearted boss, a psychologist who advises Harry on criminal minds, races against time, and a myriad of characters and plots connected in ways that are too neat by half. It can get a bit cliched and contrived, but overall the book is still enjoyable.

The Redbreast is a fun and diverting read. It's easy to see why the Harry Hole series is popular. There's nothing especially original going on, but that doesn't really matter. The writing style, the characterisation and the interweaving of plots are the book's main strengths. For those who haven't read Scandi-crime yet the setting might also provide a refreshing change.

Review quote

"A page-turner you won't want to put down" -- Daneet Steffens Time Out "Scary...culminates in a nail-biting episode with overtones of The Day of the Jackal" -- Jane Jakeman Independent "A complicated story of passion, lost love, betrayal and murder" -- Marcel Berlins The Times "A complex, utterly captivating story" -- Mark Sanderson Evening Standard "Exciting, witty, melancholy and thought-provoking" -- Jake Kerridge Daily Telegraph

Editorial reviews

A pair of assassination attempts bookend 50 years of postwar history in this bold, ambitious thriller.Oslo Detective Harry Hole's last case left him with a toxic reputation (The Devil's Star, 2006). Now he has to make a snap judgment about an unauthorized man waiting with an Uzi in the path of the visiting American president. The man he shoots turns out to be a Secret Service agent, but the Norwegian government, with no stomach for creating an international incident that might embarrass a fervent ally, promotes Harry to Inspector and boots him over to the National Security Service to keep him out of trouble. Thanks to his new posting, Harry, without at first knowing it, becomes the man most likely to foil a second assassination - this one terribly real and steeped in a series of betrayals that go back to World War II. Some of the intrigue in the dizzying series of cuts between past and present is ham-handed, and the shadowy figure variously known as Uriah (in 1944) and the Prince (in 1999) may tax some readers' patience. But it's well worth sticking with the story; both the hero and the villain are as compelling as the portrayal of Norwegians doing whatever it takes to survive the war and then paying the price.Nesbo bids fair to turn Norway into serious competition for Sweden as Scandinavia's crime center. (Kirkus Reviews)