Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Redbreast

by Jo Nesbø
521 pgs  (Harry Hole series #3)

With The Redbreast, the third book in Jo Nesbø’s crime fiction series featuring Norwegian detective Harry Hole (pronounced “Hō-leh”—something I feel compelled to mention each time I review a book in the series), Nesbø reaches his full writing stride.

During the Nazi’s occupation of Norway in World War II, thousands of Norwegians “volunteered” to serve alongside German troops fighting on the Eastern Front. After the war those soldiers returned to Norway and were labeled traitors and many were thrown into prison, scapegoats who carried their country’s sins when the Axis powers lost. Unsurprisingly, many of them spent the rest of their lives carrying deep-seeded embitterment towards their country and its leaders. One of those men, now in his seventies and dying of cancer, has begun killing those who served with him in Leningrad.

When an extremely expensive and powerful rifle is smuggled into Norway by a group of skinheads and sold to someone, Harry suspects that something significant is being planned. And as the body count starts to climb, and as it includes someone very close to Harry, he races to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Numerous times throughout the book, Nesbø alternates between two different timelines. The first takes place in modern-day Norway, and follows Hole’s investigation into the killings. The second takes place in Leningrad in the 1940s, and tells the story of a small group of soldiers who fought and survived the brutal conditions there. For much of the book, it’s not clear what the connection between the two storylines is, but as the story draws to its frantic conclusion, Nesbø rewards us with a thrilling and very satisfying conclusion.

The Redbreast was voted “Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written” by members of Norwegian book clubs, high praise from a relatively insignificant population. BUT, with a movie adaptation of one of his later Harry Hole books (The Snowman) in production for release later this year starring Michael Fassbender, and another starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the works, it’s likely that his fanbase will be expanding significantly soon. Regardless, with each book by him that I read, I become more and more excited about what Norwegian book clubs have apparently been aware of for a while now.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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