Wednesday, January 07, 2009

REVIEW: The Redbreast

Title: The Redbreast
Author: Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
ISBN: 9780099478546/ Vintage UK, 2006
Genre: #1 in the Inspector Harry Hole mystery series set in Oslo, Norway
Rating: A

First Line: A grey bird glided in and out of Harry's field of vision.

A recovering alcoholic, Inspector Harry Hole gets in a bit of a jam when the President of the United States pays a visit to Norway, and he finds himself being moved from the Crime Unit to another division where he's supposed to be in charge of boring surveillance work. When shell casings from a rifle known as "the assassin's gun" are found on a remote farm, Harry feels quite comfortable ditching his assigned duties to check out those casings. Not only does he find the trail of illegal gun smugglers, he finds himself tracking an unknown killer whose plan for revenge stretches all the way back to World War II.

This book weighs in at 618 pages in this paperback edition, but I never began thinking of it as a doorstop. I found Harry a fascinating character, and just the slightest bit reminiscent of another of my favorites, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. If Harry Hole isn't in trouble, he's quite capable of opening his mouth and finding more. He's a long, tall drink of water who doesn't talk all that much and doesn't have all that many friends, but the friends he does have, he holds close to his heart. (The chapters in which Harry leaves messages on an answering machine are quite poignant.) Nesbo keeps the plot moving back and forth from present-day Norwegian Neo-Nazi skinheads to scenes during World War II with Norwegian soldiers fighting at the Eastern Front in Hitler's army. Many scenes are described so vividly that I felt as though I were there. Another thing that I liked about the book was the fact that all the plot threads weren't neatly tied off by book's end. I finished the last page knowing that Harry still had a lot of work ahead of him.

The only thing that kept this from being a Wow Book for me was that I figured out Whodunit early on, but that certainly didn't keep me from enjoying The Redbreast. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in this series that I have carefully stashed on my TBR shelves.


  1. You read so many mysteries that I'm not surprised your figured out who did it early on. Great review, as always.

  2. Oh but, Kathy, I don't purposely try to figure out whodunit! Once in a while an author will just write a sentence that flashes like a neon sign in my mind.

  3. I read mysteries only if they're something different and written well. Jo Nesbo is a favourite. And I love that The Redbreast was a doorstopper, the longer a book the better I like it. I read each of his as they come out in English. The Devil's Star and Nemesis are both very good too. I hope you enjoy them.

  4. Sandra--I'm glad you enjoy Nesbo's books. It means I have some good reading ahead of me!

  5. Hello Cathy,
    Just dropping a short notice that I have awarded you with Premio Dardos Award. You really deserve it!

  6. I gave you a blog award today - thanks for being a great blog, and a great lady, as well!

  7. Sounds very interesting! I like how your wrote your review -- phrases like "I never began thinking of it as a bookstop" -- made it an enjoyable review and captured how you felt. Thanks!

  8. Great review. I think I already said it, but even though Nesbø's books are very popular in Denmark (us and Norway being neighbors - almost and sharing the same language - almost) I still haven't gotten around to read any of his books. They should be easy to get hold on, so I think I will :o)

  9. As a Danish crime fiction freak I also love Jo Nesbø. Actually, I don´t think he does much to keep the perpetrator secret. The psychology behind is probably more important.

    I can see you like crime fiction - perhaps you would care to visit my crime fiction blog (in Danish and English). You might find more Scandinavia authors to enjoy.

  10. Dorte--thanks for visiting my blog! You know that I had to visit yours, and I'll keep coming back!

  11. Thank you so much, Lilly and Elizabeth! I promise that I'll get these up by tomorrow. I've had a very wonky internet connection that's slowed me waaaaaaay down. :(

  12. I enjoyed this book (and The Devil's Star) very much - unfortunately they are translated into English out of order - usually this does not matter too much but for the Nesbo books it is particularly annoying because of the "poignant" aspect you mention - because I had read The Devil's Star first, I knew the end result of that. It was very sad indeed. I also find Nesbo's endings a bit contrived. But that's a small caveat, he's a very good author I think.
    I am a huge fan of Michael Connelly- I've been reading him since the very first Harry Bosch book and love not only the books themselves but the way the chracters have developed, with Terry McCaleb and now Mickey Haller looping in and out of Harry's life. These books are fantastic.
    Some of us have a group at Friend Feed in which we discuss crime and mystery fiction - you are very welcome to join if you think it would be of interest.
    Best wishes

  13. Maxine--there's one good thing to be said for coming to an author late: I can read Nesbo's books in order! Thanks for the info on Friend Feed. I have a feeling that you'll be seeing me there soon (as soon as the new wireless router arrives and is installed).


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