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
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 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 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.
Great performance by Robin Sachs he does a great Harry Hole. I've become a fan of Nesbos work and this is actually a second run through of the series as I listened a few years back.
The series is very entertaining and all the characters are engaging.
Harry Hole is great regardless of the order you read him in!! So glad I went back to the beginning!
Liked the dating of the chapters. Slightly disliked the ending not wrapping up all the murders but it does open up the possibility of another book go the series. Excellent narrator.
Much easier to follow the story arcs/flashbacks/multiple Points of View in print version or if this were a film.
He's an outstanding narrator, and really brings the story to life.
This is the third Jo Nesbo book I've listened to, and look forward to hearing them all. He's a rich and engrossing painter of people and scenes, and the stories are addictive.
The narration seemed a bit slow in the beginning, but as you progress through the book it begins to make sense. This is the first in the series that leaves part of the mystery to the next book, compelling one to go on. Harry Hole is likable while being damaged, as many of these detectives are.
The saddest part were the voice messages that Harry leaves Ellen, describing his feeling that he has such difficulty revealing to others.
I'm happy that there are 10 books in this series - I keep running out of books to listen to while gardening!
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