Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past—when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away, and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one. Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole—and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.
Topics: Alcoholism, Betrayal, Crime, Police, Murder, Revenge, World War II, Nazis, Soldiers, Norway, Vienna, Germany, Suspenseful, Translated, and Series
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Still, the lead character (Harry Hole) was interesting and offered up some depth, and in truth, it was Hole's interactions with others that made this interesting, not the mystery itself.more
My initial lack of interest reading The Redbreast was due to its flashback passages to the battlefields of WW2. With regards to my entertainment war is one of two subjects that is virtually guaranteed to make me zone out like a switch in my brain has been turned and all I hear and see is white noise (blame bad history teaches in my adolescence). However I made an extra effort to pay attention to The Redbreast this time and, though I still could have done without quite so many flashbacks, I did find the focus on the experiences of those who chose the wrong side during the war and were later treated as traitors quite fascinating and not something I’ve come across before (or at least not when I’ve been paying attention).
But the book has much besides its post-war musings to recommend it. First and foremost there is Harry Hole. He is funny, smart, occasionally insolent, socially inept and has a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve. At first I liked him but his realistic and truly touching reaction to a particularly horrible event about half-way through the story made me love him to bits. I rarely think about wanting to meet fictional people (because, ya know, it’s impossible) but I’d happily engage in a bit of black magic if it meant I could have a chat with Harry. And perhaps give him a hug. It might give you some sense of just how much I adored him that I immediately purchased all the other books in which he appears even though I won’t read any of them for a while just so I could have them nearby.
There are other equally well-drawn characters in the book, though many of them are the kind of repugnant individuals whose eyes you want to scratch out (or is that just me?). My favourite one to hate was Bernt Brandhaug, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who likes to blackmail women, including Harry’s possible love interest, to sleep with him. Though despicable he is entirely too credible, as is the neo-Nazi youth Sverre Olsen, whose blaming of foreigners for the problems in his life rather than taking responsibility for his own inadequacies has a sadly familiar ring to it. This dark side of human nature is nicely balanced though by great characters like Harry’s colleagues Ellen, a feisty young woman who continues to help Harry after he is transferred to a different section, and Halvorsen a relatively new officer who is drawn into Harry’s investigation somewhat reluctantly.
The plot is very complicated, probably a little too much to be honest as there were one or two twists that didn’t seem to add much except confusion, but overall it hangs together well. The flashbacks are incorporated well (it’s not Nesbø’s fault I get bored at the first hint of wartime activity) and the mostly short chapters headed by dates help to provide much needed structure for the multi-threaded story which plays out over the course of many months. I’m sure this is all helped along by a great translation which makes the book flow very easily and naturally.
I’m still not convinced The Redbreast needed to be a hand-cramping 618 pages long, it was far too dense and detailed in parts, and there were some passages that felt muddled, like the incorporation of an enormously complicated psychological condition in an overly simplistic and not terribly realistic way. But overall these points were far outweighed by the excellent characters and well-structured narrative. I’m thrilled I have four more (so far) opportunities to catch up with Harry sometime soon.more