Friday, 7 February 2014

Cockroaches by Harry Hole - Book Review

It’s a real shame that the Jo Nesbo novels, featuring Harry Hole, the detective with a complicated personal life, have not been translated into English in a chronological order. Perhaps Nesbo's British publishers decided to debut with The Devil's Star, fifth in this series, because the early books are not set in Norway. The grim Nordic backdrop is, after all, one of the main attractions of Nordic crime fiction. As Boris Johnson once commented on an article about the popularity of TV's Wallander, 'Blood looks brighter on snow'. But since another main feature of Jo Nesbo's novels is the development of Harry Hole's (flawed) character, it's rather frustrating to find out why his life is in such a mess back to front, so to speak.

It is indeed strange to read a Norwegian crime thriller which is not set in a cold, snowy Nordic landscape, but after complaining about this fact in my review of The Bat, the first Harry Hole thriller set in Australia, I'm now over it and actually really enjoyed this second book in the Harry Hole series. 

It was also good to read a book which referred to the events which took place in the previous novel. I also felt that Nesbo's writing was a lot more confident in Cockroaches. It was as if the author too enjoyed returning to his old friend, Harry, who at the beginning of the book is spending more time in his favourite Olso bar than he's solving crime. He's back on the booze, and on a personal downward spiral.

But when a Norwegian Ambassador dies under suspicious circumstances in Bangkok, guess which local (now) famous Norwegian detective is put on the case? Off Harry flies to Thailand where he doggedly investigates not only his own Expat countrymen's secretive lives, but also the local mafia. Both groups dislike his attentions and get him into mortal danger, and in trouble with his employers, the police chiefs in Norway.

As usual with Harry Hole novels, Nesbo sets up the story so that the reader is lead to believe one character after another is the perpetrator. Hence the denounment of the story is not exactly a surprise since the author has literally run out of people to point the finger at. This is a very Agatha Christie way of plotting a novel, which I enjoy, so I'm not really complaining. 

I liked Cockroaches and cannot wait to read the next Nesbo thriller, The Son, (not featuring Harry Hole) which is going to be out in April.

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