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.
love speculative fiction, mysteries of all types, fatalist novels about beautiful girls in ugly cities. live with two cats in the hills, sipping tea and reading books.
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.
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 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.
Long time Audible member (8 years, 500+ books). Avid flyfisherman, hunter, bicycler.
I really enjoyed this book. I know there are comparisons to Stieg Larsson, but I really think this book stands on its own without needing a comparison to the Dragon Tattoo series. That said, since it's being marketing that way, I will say that it's not as violent, or quite as detailed as Larsson's books, but it's got great character development and plot. I must say, my mind was twisted up trying to figure out who the Old Man really was, and the revelation of such was thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. The translation from Norwegian was a tad quirky, but in no way did it detract from the writing. I look forward to reading (hearing) other books by Jo Nesbo.
I was not at all impressed with Harry Hole at the beginning, but he grew on me as time went on. I wasn't expecting a super-hero like Mitch Rapp, but he was a bit of a loser. He needs to lose the beat up Ford Escort.....
The unveiling of the Old Man's diary.
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 just couldn't get through this book. After a few hours I have to give it up. I bought it because of the great reviews and am really disappointed. I really like thrillers but this seems to be a slow moving WW2 story with confusing Norwegian characters mired in philosophical debates about Fascism and the Nazis. Did I read the reviews wrong?? In any case if you buy it be prepared to listen to a ponderous war story, NOT a current day thriller. There are flashes of a current thriller but in my reading so far there are only brief flashes.
I read Snowman first. Perhaps a mistake. The Redbreast was not quite as good (I thought Snowman was perfect.) However, without the comparison, this is an excellent mystery for those who like the dark and human detectives of the Scandinavian genre.
Lover of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, and westerns in all media, including old-time radio dramatizations.
After "The Bat," I thought I was unsure about this series. Now, I think I understand what it is. I completely enjoyed "Redbreast," but I'm still not won-over. Why? I think it's that I don't like Harry, himself. For new potential readers/listeners, Harry reminds me of Jesse Stone. I have to confess that I only know Jesse from the movies. Strangely, I liked that series of movies in a way that I can't really like Harry. Maybe it's the Tom Selleck effect, since they are similar characters. Some additional credit may go to the translator. I'm amazed at how well humorous elements translate. I would normally expect humor to be a highly cultural phenomena, but you would never know that the novel wasn't originally written in English.
I'm pretty sure I will get the next available installment, but I hope that Harry will become a less damaged character over time. I can only do so much of the damaged, whining, unreliable, drunk before I expect to see some improvement in character. I want characters that I can look up to, eventually. I tell you this so that you can judge for yourself. If you find a permanently damaged personality to be more "realistic," then Harry might be your guy.
This is not a book for the faint of heart. Nesbo's Harry Hole is Everyman, a flawed, guilt-ridden alcoholic who holds life precious, but sees it taken away from him in tragic circumstance. He's brilliant, though not quick. Nesbo's plot plods. Layer after layer of detail, that seems to make no sense until it all culminates in climax.
This is a book that I need to read/listen to a second time, and it is good enough to hold me through again. Robin Sachs has a voice like Isle of Islay whisky - dark, smokey and smooth as glass. My only difficulty with this book came with the unfamiliar Norwegian names. If I was reading it in print, I'm sure that difficulty would have been lessened, but I would have missed the whisky voice. I will see if it is available on WhisperSync. That would be an excellent coupling.