Knife, by Jo Nesbo
It’s hard to imagine how dedicated thriller readers survived before the advent of Scandy Noir, the genre created by Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, and continued with varying degrees of talent by any aspiring author with a Scandinavian-sounding name. Until author and ex-muso Jo Nesbo came on the scene, launching his burnt-out, alcoholic detective Harry Hole on an unsuspecting public: we have never been the same since, begging like addicts for each new episode of Harry’s adventures on the Dark Side – and we always, always get our fix.
This time round, the Dark Side is largely of Harry’s own making: his beloved wife Rakel has thrown him out; he is drinking himself unconscious every night and his work has become slipshod – well, who can produce results when remorse and alcohol overwhelm everything?
And worse is yet to come: rapist and murderer Svein Finne is finally out of prison where Harry put him so long ago, and is swearing vengeance, especially as Harry also killed his son (read ‘The Thirst’!). Harry’s past is rapidly catching up with him and he has never been so ill-equipped to defend himself. Only a further tragedy of cataclysmic proportions can drag him back onto the straight and narrow – temporarily, at least –for he MUST solve the heinous crime of his wife’s murder, which surely would never have happened if he had been there, drunk or not, to protect her. When he has found the murderer and killed him, then he’ll drink himself to death.
He’s officially too close to the victim in the investigation, and therefore required to leave the investigating to his colleagues. And officially, he’s on bereavement leave. Well.
Since when has officialdom ever stopped Harry Hole and his rat-trap mind from deducing information from the slimmest of leads, the mere breath of suspicion – and always coming up with the right conclusion? Hopefully.
Red Herrings (it’s Norway, folks!) constantly fool Harry and the readers; Nesbo convincingly casts suspicion on absolutely everyone as well as the obviously evil Svein Finne, but once again I have to say that I never suspected Whodunnit when all was revealed. And more shocks are to come: we are kept guessing about everything – including Harry’s fate – until the very last page, and that is surely the mark of a storyteller par excellence, a master of characterisation, suspense – and human failings. FIVE STARS.