A Norwegian national is killed while working in Australia and Detective Harry Hole is sent to assist in the investigation. It’s not long before her death is linked to a string of murders and it’s believed a serial killer is on the loose. Can Harry and company track down and stop the murderer before he kills again?
Like seemingly everyone on the planet, I enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and after I closed the book on the final novel, I began hearing that this Jo Nesbo guy was someone I should check out. I was hesitant at first as it felt like the publishing world was trying to cash in on Larsson’s success by quickly throwing out the first Scandinavian crime writer (similar to the influx of post-grunge music in the mid 1990s) they found in an effort to capitalize on the public’s newfound interest in Scandinavian crime. On the other hand, maybe it wasn't fair to judge Nesbo so quickly. Maybe this guy is a decent writer. Maybe Larsson opened the door for similar countrymen, giving them an opportunity to shine when the whole world was watching.
After doing a little digging, turns out Nesbo has been around a little longer than Larsson. Larsson’s Salander books hit it big in 2005 and exploded onto the worldwide literary scene in 2008. While Nesbo had been steadily writing his Harry Hole novels since the late 1990s and has achieved great success in his home country, it’s arguable that Larsson’s success played a key role in Nesbo’s breakthrough into the world stage.
When I initially decided to give Nesbo a go, I had stalled right out of the gate. Turns out that the first two novels in the Harry Hole series had yet to be translated to English. Unfortunately, I've never been comfortable with diving into a series with any novel other than the first. So, I waited. Finally, I got my hands on Harry Hole #1 (The Bat) and dug in. Maybe it was the hype or maybe I should have clued in that his publisher had forgone translating the first two novels in favor of starting with book five (The Redbreast) but I came away feeling underwhelmed.
The first half of this novel is hopelessly dull and while Nesbo throws everything on its head midway through, I felt in the end it wasn't enough to save the whole experience. Sure, while the mystery was intricately plotted and I certainly didn't foresee the identity of the killer coming, the whole lead-up to it felt flat and run of the mill.
The book is filled with countless info dumps that I’m not entirely sure are necessary to the story. Not only that, but they weighed down the pacing and were written in an uninteresting manner.
Given all the problems I had with The Bat, I’m still interested in Jo Nesbo. Judging by other reviews of subsequent releases, the series looks like it gets better. While I’m in no rush to get the second book, I can see myself picking it up down the road.
Oh, and Harry Hole.. what an awful name.