Friday, February 11, 2022

Nemesis: Jo Nesbø

Harry Hole is the protagonist in a series of crime fiction novels by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. Harry is a police detective working in Oslo. He has many of the typical problems of policemen in crime fiction. He struggles with alcohol, smoking, and depression. He is talented but has difficulty taking orders and dealing with co-workers. 

My first introduction to Nesbø was The Redbreast. I read that book in 2012 when I first started blogging. It was the third book in the series, but at the time it was the only one that had been translated to English. There were two storylines, and one was set during World War II. I was charmed by the dual timelines and learned a lot about Norway during World War II from that book. 

Nemesis is the fourth novel in the series. There are two cases that are the focus of this novel. Harry joins a team investigating a series of bank robberies because in one of the robberies, a bank teller was killed by the robber. At about the same time, an old friend and lover of Harry dies, and the death is determined to be suicide. Unfortunately, Harry was with this woman the night she died. He had too much to drink, doesn't know when he left, and woke up the next day with no memories of the previous night. He does not believe it was suicide, but he also fears he would be a suspect if it is murder. 

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy reading this novel, even though I recognize the high level of Nesbø's writing.  

The Good Points:

Nesbø tells a good story and the pacing is good. 

The main character is likable (some would say charismatic). The secondary characters are interesting, believable and well developed. I really liked a new police woman introduced in this book, Beate Lonn. 

I liked the varied settings. Although I cannot say I learned much about Norway, Harry goes to Egypt to follow up on one case and to Brazil with Beate following a clue for the other case. 

The Bad Points:

The plot is overcomplicated to begin with, but at the end there are entirely too many twists and turns when you think everything is already resolved.

My main objection is that I am tired of damaged alcoholic policemen who ignore the rules and get away with it over and over.

In conclusion:

I got far enough into the book that I wanted to see it through and find how the solutions for both cases were handled. My objections are personal preferences, and I can see why so many people are fans of this series. Of the reviews I have read, some had the same complaints as mine, but the majority were overwhelmingly positive. 

This is my first book for the European Reading Challenge.


Publisher:  Harper, 2009 (orig. pub. as Sorgenfri in 2002)
Length:  474 pages
Format:  Trade Paperback
Series:  Harry Hole #2
Setting:  Oslo, Norway, with trips to Egypt and Brazil
Genre:   Police Procedural, Thriller
Translated:  From the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Source:  Purchased in 2012.


Margot Kinberg said...

I know exactly what you mean, Tracy, about damaged detectives. I feel precisely the same way, and it's one of my issues with Harry Hole, actually. I agree that Nesbø tells a good story, but there is such a thing as too much going on. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this one.

TracyK said...

Margot, from what I read about later books in the series, they are much the same. And I realize it depends on a lot of factors. But I am glad I read the book all the way through anyway.

Cath said...

Yes, I had a go at one of the Jo Nesbo books, not sure which one now as it's several years ago. It wasn't for me. Something a bit too hard-bitten about it and, like you, I'm really tired of alcoholic detectives with terrible personal problems. I think that's why I like vintage crime so much, that kind of thing tends not to intrude, not in the character of the detective anyway. Have either you or Glen heard of Roy Vickers? I just read one of his longish short stories in Murder by the Book one of the BLCC's collections. Such a great story, A Man and his Mother-in-law. Beautifully written from the murderer's pov, but the author does not seem to be well known.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too. To both points. Even the females share these issues. Or maybe the writers think we all do now. I should like it because I don't like cozies. But it is just too much work reading it. And dispiriting. In a detective novel, I like a Longmire type detective-who may be suffering from the death of his wife--but gets the job done. And has good people working with him.

Lark said...

I've only read one of Nesbo's Harry Hole books: The Snowman. And I did like it, but I guess not enough to continue on with the rest of the series. Sorry this one wasn't more enjoyable.

Rick Robinson said...

Barbara has read, and enjoyed, them all as they became available in translation, a year or more apart. I tried one, I think he was sent to Australia in it, and found it just okay. It seems since Block had success with his Scudder novels every mystery writer has wanted to have an alcoholic protagonist at some point.

TracyK said...

Cath, I agree with you on the vintage crime books. Sometime they are not as realistic and depict all policemen as perfect (unless they are cast as not as smart as the amateur detective), but neither is it very realistic to assume all policemen are damaged. At least I hope not.

I looked up Roy Vickers, as the name did sound familiar. Both Glen and I had heard of a short story collection of his stories, The Department of Dead Ends, which are all inverted mysteries. In fact, I think I first heard of that book from Rick (who commented above) at his blog (Tip the Wink) a few years ago, but I still don't have a copy of that book. I will have to go looking for it now. But beyond that I have no knowledge of that writer.

Murder by the Book doesn't come out here until September 2022, even in the kindle version, but I do look forward to that. It has a lovely cover.

TracyK said...

Patti, Longmire is a good example of a contemporary crime fiction protagonist that I enjoy reading. Another is William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor. Although unfortunately I haven't read a lot of entries in either of those series.

TracyK said...

Lark, I am sure that my mood at this time had a lot to do with it, but I am just not into this type of book now. There are good aspects to this book and I am sure that is true for the books that follow. Just not for me.

When I first heard of The Snowman by Nesbo, it was via a trailer for the movie, and I was surprised it was so bloody and violent. Although in the movies there is a tendency to ramp up that type of thing, and the book may be so bad.

TracyK said...

Rick, I did see many good points in the book I was reading, especially the characters. Nesbo creates very good characters. Even the criminals are interesting. I can see why Barbara would enjoy the series.

It is interesting that you bring up Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels. I was thinking about that series while I was reading Nemesis. I have only read one book in that series, and that was before I was blogging, but I want to come back to it. I had wondered how I would like that character now. He gets sober eventually in that series, but I don't know at what point.

Todd Mason said...

One thing that might be worth mentioning, in terms of the ubiquity of alcoholic cops particularly in Scandinavian cf--the relative prevalence of alcoholism among Scandinavians, police and writers. Sometimes, it just seems more likely than not to some writers, I suspect.

I did always wonder how much a Comedy of Humors name Harry Hole was supposed to be.

Good hunting for police fiction more to your taste! If one is willing to cast back to Roy Vickers, how about the cop stories of Lawrence Treat? Ever tried much of Joe Gores's PI procedural fiction?

Rick Robinson said...

Joe Gores is excellent.

TracyK said...

Todd, you have brought up one of my favorite subjects and it will be hard to be brief. Back in 2013 I did a crime fiction alphabet series of posts featuring police procedurals (or at least series where a policeman is the main protagonist).

After I read Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh recently, I was motivated to think about my favorite policeman protagonists, but I haven't had the time to do much about that. The introduction in the book mentions books by Lawrence Treat but I know little about that author. I certainly do want to look into his his books.

Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite fictional policemen:
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, the Bill Slider series (earlier books are my favorites)
John Harvey's Charlie Resnick
Reginald Hill / Dalziel and Pascoe
Peter Lovesey / Peter Diamond
Andrea Camilleri, Inspector Montalbano
Catherine Aird / Inspector C.D. Sloan
Ken Bruen, Detective Sergeant Brant
Bill Crider, Sheriff Dan Rhodes

Which leaves out many that don't come to mind right now. In some cases I have only read 2 or 3 in the series.

I have only read the first book by Joe Gores (Dead Skip) in the DKA Files series. My husband and I have both purchased books by Gores, so between us we have a good number of them to read in the future.

TracyK said...

Rick, with your further recommendation of Joe Gores' books, I will have to get back to reading that series. I have all of the DKA Files novels, plus the Crippen & Landru collection of short stories.

Constance Martin said...

You all are giving me some good reading suggestions. I am not sure why I haven't read the Bill Slider series as I really like CHE's historical fiction. I have never got into the Lawrence Block books, although tried because my friend used to edit them. I do like Aird very much although have got out of the practice of reading her and was surprised to find she had gone on without me! As I mentioned recently, A Most Contagious Game is my favorite.

My favorite series right now are the Deborah Crombie series /Kincaid/James, Julia Spencer-Fleming's books about Clare Fergusson, Linda Castillo's sheriff Kate, and I am enjoying several David Baldacci series. And, of course, Louise Penny!

TracyK said...

Constance, There have been some great suggestions here. And you have added more.

I have often considered reading some of Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' historical fiction, but never followed up on that. I will continue reading the C.D. Sloan series by Aird, but I will go ahead and read the standalone book, A Most Contagious Game. I can't get to my own copy, so I will read my husband's copy, which has better print anyway.

I have read 12 of Deborah Crombie's series, but the first seven books were my favorites. I have only read the first three in the Julia Spencer-Fleming series, but I will continue that one for sure. I had passed on Linda Castillo's series, because what I had read indicated it was too violent and tense for me, but I have heard so much praise lately I will give it a try someday. And I will be continuing Louise Penny's series soon. I have to find where I stashed the next book in that series. That is what I get for not keeping up with cataloging books.

NancyElin said...

Love the new layout..."Good points" "Bad points" for me!

TracyK said...

Nancy, at the time I did not even realize I was following your format. You are a good influence and I do love the way you list good points and bad points. It worked for me too, especially with this book. Usually I don't have any real bad points.