It is 1944: Daniel, a soldier, legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes up in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the turn of the next century.
In 1999, Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. He will be both winner and loser by the novel’s nail-biting conclusion.
The Redbreast won the Glass Key prize for the best Nordic crime novel when it was first published, and was subsequently voted Norway’s best crime novel. The Devil’s Star, Nesbø’s first novel featuring Harry Hole to be translated into English, marked Nesbø as a writer to watch in the ever more fashionable world of Nordic crime.
©2007 Jo Nesbo (P)2011 Random House Audio
This was my first Nesbo book, and I had to immediately buy The Snowman. There are a lot of characters and it can be confusing (especially because the names are Norwegian so not ones American listeners are necessarily used to). But it's worth it. A terrific story by a great storyteller.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I found this slow and quite confusing. A cast of thousands with foreign names made it hard to keep track, particularly in audio. May have been easier to follow in print. Also quite dark even for a crime novel (though not as dark as some). Wasn't quite what I was looking for but may suit others.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
Nesbo's Harry Hole book The Bat was very good. Cockroaches was disappointing and earned three stars. The Redbreast is punishment for the listener.
I did not give up on Nesbo. Devil's Star was okay, Police was good, and The Son is terrific.
Harry Hole is great regardless of the order you read him in!! So glad I went back to the beginning!
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