This is the first in a series featuring police offer, Harry Hole (pronouced Harry Hula, although Robin Sachs English pronouciation leaves it as Hole) this complex tale switches between World War II on the Eastern Front in the 1940's and present day weaving together a tale of revenge and corruption that will leave you guessing until the end. Stay with the series, Nemesis, book 2 is awesome.
Retired "Okie" librarian & happy to have found Audible for good stories & staying in touch with new authors & books.
A more masculine story switching from the modern neo-Nazi crime story to the WWII Norwegian soldiers in the trenches fighting on the German side. This is at the core a very Norwegian story of betrayal, traitors, & survival during the Nazi invasion of Norway. Layered upon the world scene of 1944 and 1999 and later are very personal stories. It is not chases down alleys nor car chases but it has exploding grenades & is thought provoking. I found it difficult to keep the multitude of characters straight but cared about tying all the story threads together. The writing made it worth the trouble.
The narrator was great, brought the story to life.
it takes a type of high caliber, underpraised writing and a certain enchanting but fallible character to have the sort of cult following jo nesbo's harry hole possesses. reviewers sing the praises of nesbo's investigators harry hole series, and all insist anyone interested in meeting harry start with the redbreast, the first book of the series to be translated from the original norwegian.
my interested had been piqued by the leopard and the devil's star, both serial killer huntdowns further along in the series, and i was hesitant to dive into the historical fiction novel which the redbreast's summary seemed to described.
and there is historical fiction -- the novel alternates between past and present tense, the stories of the past seemingly unconnected to the present day mystery in such a way that i felt lost and considered giving up on the book about 1/3 of the way through. life is too short for long winded tales, right?
somewhere about half way through, though, i felt the redbreast coming together and knitting me up into its story-- i began to see a side of harry hole that made me understand him and the avid readers who sing his praises as a flawed but fascinating character, and even though the pace of the writing hadn't necessarily quickened, my interest in it had. the big reveal was, like it is in any good mystery, well worth the wait it took to get there.
i was very happy to meet harry in the redbreast, and i'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series (or what has been translated of it) now.
final thought -- i often wonder if jo nesbo is irritated at claims of being "the next stieg larsson" as is on the cover of this book -- the girl with the dragon tattoo wasn't published in sweden until 2005. jo nesbo was winning awards in 1997. i often wonder if nordic crime writers love or hate the girl with the dragon tattoo series, and how much it seems to make all other writing from their area fall in its shadow.
This is one of those complex type of thrillers, that you have to listen to every word closely to know what is going on. When they say it's the next Stieg Larson, that's is a very good comparison, as the characters are Norweigen, Austrian,with a good helping of Nazi's. The modern story and the background from the 1940's jump back and forth from chapter to chapter, with an abundance of characters to keep track of. It's a good story and an interesting one, but I have to say that I did a better job of understanding what was going on, when I switched over to my kindle and read the last half. The narrator did a fine job though. It is just easier to comprehend all the time jumps when I can see it in print. (that's just me) There must be a book or two before this one however, because of some reference to Harry's past experiences that are never clarified in this book, but it doesn't ruin anything, just makes you wonder at times what they are referring to.
All and all it's a good book, and I'll probably read the next of the series.
But what's going on with the pronunciation of Harry's last name?
This review is a little retrospective. It was the first Harry Hole I listened to, and I have followed up with all the others produced by Audible.com to-date.
This book, and its excellent narration, set the hook for me. Harry Hole is a lot like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, who was my previous favorite hard-boiled cop/ex-cop. Having now read all but the second in the series (not yet available at this writing), I can say that this book is essential for any fan who loves Scandinavian crime-noir. A much tougher character than Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, he is nonetheless every bit the introspective man. Harry's life is indeed a well-examined one. Above all, he is just a basic policeman at heart, no matter what the situation or conflict.
Now, about that pronunciation of Harry's last name. Robin Sachs renders it exactly as if it were the English word "hole", like a hole in the ground. Does that sound a little jarring to you? It did to me. Robin Sachs narrates the majority of the Harry Hole novels, and in each he pronounces the name the same.
Then along came (in order of Audible.com releases) "Nemesis" narrated by Thor Knai. Thor pronounces the name "Hole" as "hOO-la". No dissonance there, sounds a lot more Scandinavian than Robin's pronunciation of the name. "Hole" apparently is a Norwegian word or name. Google Translate has a pronunciation feature, and if you enter "Hole" as Norwegian it is pronounced just like Thor said it. Maybe with less stress on the second syllable, what the dictionaries indicate with an upside-down "e".
OK, so who knows? Then, along came the first Harry Hole novel, "The Bat". It's the first in the order that Jo Nesbø wrote them, but the most recent in order of production by Audible.com. In the opening of that book Harry makes it clear that his name is not pronounced like a hole in the ground. Here's the passage, as it appears in the print version (Random House Canada paperback, ISBN 0307361012):
"The arrivals hall was crowded with travel reps and limousine drivers, holding up signs with names on, but not a Hole in sight. He was on the point of grabbing a taxi when a black man wearing light blue jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, and with an unusually broad nose and dark, curly hair ploughed a furrow between the signs and came striding toward him.
"'Mr Holy, I presume!' he declared triumphantly.
"Harry Hole considered his options. He had decided to spend the first days in Australia correcting the pronunciation of his surname so that he wouldn't be confused with apertures or orifices. Mr Holy however, was infinitely preferable."
Well, you tell me. From Harry's mouth (via a translator) to your ears, or eyes if you read the printed version.
To confuse the matter further, Nesbø spoke at an authors' breakfast in New York earlier this year and, speaking in English, pronounced Harry's name as "hole"! As this is so inconsistent with his own (translated) words in "The Bat" I expect he, like Harry, gets a little tired of correcting people who mispronounce the name. As a single datum, my Swedish friend Pettersson when, in America, pronounces his name as the English name "Peterson". In Swedish, however, it is far different, more like "Pedder Shown".
Anyway, you'll learn to roll with the different pronunciations. Robin Sachs is great, the book is great, and there is still at least one untranslated Harry Hole book out there to look forward to. You'll love them all.
Intense, Brilliant, Nesbo
Take your time. The plot twist and turns. There are flash backs which sometimes makes it difficult to follow the story line. I even went as far as to use a character chart to better understand the story line.
Maybe it's just part of the genre: yet another quirky, somewhat dysfunctional detective with problems. As long as it's well done, I suppose, and this compares favorably with the best of similar characters by other authors.
While Jo Nesbo is a good writer, the voice of Robin Sachs is what drives this book. He infuses a sense of Harry Hole's character into the entire book, not just Harry's spoken lines. I do wish Sachs would have pronounced the name Hole with two syllables, though. Ho - lay or perhaps ho - la instead of the English word "hole." In other names and places Sachs appears to strive to reproduce Norwegian pronunciations without overdoing it. Why not here? There are too many unwanted associations with the English word "hole." Nesbo doesn't mind the English pronunciation, I've read elsewhere, but perhaps he's being too kind.
Stories, such as this one, that connect characters back to WWII activities must be near end. There are fewer and fewer WWII survivors, so we can relax, breath a sigh of relief and be done with ex-Nazis for the most part, so be patient with this one book.
The first part of the story slips in and out of WWII and the present (a present without cell phones--the invention of which significantly changes the world of detective fiction). A certain amount of patience is required with the interludes from the past. Eventually all points from the past connect with the present. These trips to the past are somewhat dry in spite of Sachs's skilled reading.
This is a good listen. You won't be wasting your credits with the download.
I was curious to see how things would end, but it was frustrating. I liked the last fourth of the book. As things became clear, I was surprised. The overall plotting was excellent. But I have complaints.
1. As I read, I kept thinking of “The Day of The Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth. In both stories we watch an assassin plan and make arrangements to kill someone. We also watch cops try to learn who the assassin is and stop him.
In Jackal, I was fascinated and admired many smart things done by the assassin and other bad guys. In one case I was rooting for one of the bad guys who wanted to see his daughter. THEN I was fascinated and admired the many smart things done by the good guys. I was “wowed” by both sides. I smiled frequently and was surprised frequently by neat things and smart things being done. I sympathized with the bad guys who were idealists - fighting for what they believed in. But I did want the good guys to win.
In Redbreast the first 3/4 of the book was frustrating and depressing. The emphasis was powerful bad guys doing horrible things, and getting away with it. The good guys were helpless and manipulated. One good cop is murdered right after she learned something and then did stupid things. Harry also does a couple of stupid things, not questioning what he should. I want to root for a good guy while I follow his progress. Rooting for Harry is like rooting for the turtle in the race with the hare. He’s slow and doing nothing special or interesting. Harry is also like a ball bouncing around on the water, accidentally learning things once in a while.
2. A major bad guy was not caught. At the end, Harry asks his boss for time to look into that. His boss says you have two months. Then the book is over. I was angry. It was unfinished. If catching this bad guy is the sequel, then I suppose it’s ok, but I can’t help how I felt when this book finished - negative. I’d prefer catching both bad guys now and do a sequel about something else.
3. I don’t like jumping around. There were two main stories. One from 1944 and one current day. The first third of the book jumps back and forth between the two stories - way too much. It would have been so much better if the author told the early story in a linear time line up until the guy and girl separate. Then the author could pick up the rest of that story later as he did. No spoilers would have happened. And I would have enjoyed the early story instead of being frustrated with interruptions.
4. Ending scenes in the middle of an action or conversation. Some experts tell authors to do this - to keep the reader interested. I consider it artificial manipulation to create “false suspense.” I don’t like it. I prefer classic story telling with a natural end for each scene.
5. I have no idea why the author doesn’t show the kills happening. We are in a scene watching the killer talk to his victim or other actions leading up to the kill. Then the scene stops. The next sentence is the next day with police at the crime scene. There are several kills like this.
6. I’m not sure how I feel about the tell-all at the end; the killer gives one long explanation about his motives and actions. It was ok in this case, but I wondered about it. Some authors use tell-alls because they are quick and easy. I think the best writing uncovers things in interesting ways during the book rather than a tell-all at the end.
7. Someone kills Brandhaug. I don’t know how the killer knew the despicable things Brandhaug did. The killer saw some letters, but those letters would not have told the whole story. I was disappointed. I wanted to see how the killer learned what Brandhaug did and watch the killer’s emotional reactions.
The narrator Robin Sachs was fine.
Genre: crime mystery thriller.
Ending: mysteries uncovered, one bad guy caught, another bad guy not caught.
I mostly listen to books while exercising, which pretty much explains all of the action/thrillers on my list.
This is my first Jo Nesbo. Of course now I have to read more to find out how the subplot plays out. And yes, there is one. But mostly I enjoyed this one because it gave me a glimpse into a sidebar story of WWII that I had never paid any attention to. The fact that Norway surrendered to Germany and Norwegians ended up fighting in the German army in Russia. Made sense as Russia had always been a more obvious enemy for Norway, but the whole Nazi think complicated it of course. Anyway, definitely an entertaining story.
An avid reader, demanding of the story, characters and narrator. Mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.
One reason I bought this book was because someone compared Jo Nesbo to Stieg Larsson. I disagree. Although I love Harry Hole (hero of this book), I was not nearly as engaged by "The Redbreast" as I was by the Larsson books.
This is a mystery, psychological thriller, love story and history book rolled into one. I enjoyed learning about the conflicting roles Norway played during WWII, and I definitely enjoyed several of the main characters. But the story was hard to follow. Part of this is due to the unfamiliarity of the Norwegian names. I was initially so mixed up about who was who that I eventually wrote down the names (spelled phonetically) of each character as he/she was introduced. That helped.
The plot, however, of "The Redbreast" is so complex, bouncing back and forth between two time periods (1943-45 and 1999-2000), that I had to struggle to keep up. At the very end, I started the book over again to make sure I understood what had been revealed.