Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis: The Early Days of Harry Hole
With summer’s end and the fall fast approaching, we begin to look forward to a riot of blazing autumnal colors in Central Park, brisk mornings and cooler evenings, the sensuous scent of roasted, street-corner chestnuts, and the delight of apple picking or a cloudy stroll in a pumpkin patch. It’s one of my favorite times of year, partly because there is nothing more satisfying than curling up with a hot, freshly brewed cup of tea, a warm afghan (the blanket kind), and a good mystery novel on a chilly autumn night. A few months ago, Word & Film introduced us to Headhunters by master storyteller Jo Nesbo and I’ve been hooked ever since. Having followed up that read with The Snowman, which was also terrorizing, my next venture into Nesboland is Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, the second of six Harry Hole books in the translated series (and fourth in the series including those yet to be translated). It’s another winner.
Harry Hole is a senior detective in Norway. He is considered one of the elite elders on the force, recognized as a tenacious, astute officer of the law with a remarkable record of solving some of the most heinous and difficult cases. Unfortunately, as successful as his professional record is, his personal life is equally a disaster. His on-again, off-again serious bouts with alcohol have periodically threatened to blow up his career while destroying many of his personal relationships. These drinking bouts sometimes lead to Harry’s black-outs and subsequent disappearances off the grid, only to reemerge days later with bruises or cuts he is reluctant to explain.
In Nemesis, Harry encounters his latest challenge: a number of bank robberies are occurring around Oslo, which uniquely involve a masked robber coldly and callously forcing a bank employee to count to twenty-five with a gun to his or her head. If the money demanded is not collected and bagged in the allotted seconds, BANG! The trigger is pulled and the employee is killed on the spot. It is a deadly game and gripping scenario. As if that weren’t enough, a concurrent plot finds Harry waking one morning with a severe hangover, only to discover that the former flame he had dinner with the night before is found dead. Harry can’t recall a single detail of the evening, leading him to desperately hide his involvement from the police. There’s plenty of deception all around, including that around the attractive female officer Harry is partnered with. Their dangerous trip to Brazil, in pursuit of the robbery suspect, supercharges the suspense and intrigue.
Part of the reason I’ve become hooked on the Harry Hole series is that, as a protagonist, Harry is unfailingly human with more significant shortcomings than other popular mystery heroes. Yet, like most of us, he struggles forward even in the most difficult of circumstances, despite obstacles and messes, often of his own making. Jo Nesbo’s imaginative writing is right on the money, finding the proper balance between description and drive, without becoming bogged down in density of details.
With more Harry Hole novels I’ve yet to read, it promises to be a most satisfying fall. Oh, and did you know that the main reason leaves turn colors in the fall is due to less daylight and more night? I guess I’d be wise to buy the big box of Lipton.