Cover image of "The Thirst" by Jo Nesbo, the new Harry Hole detective novel

If you read Scandinavian noir, you’ve probably encountered a large number of psychopathic serial killers. I know I have. So, when I came across another one in The Thirst, the new Harry Hole detective novel, I decided to do a little checking. Just how many Scandinavian serial killers have there been, really?

That topic is a bit of a challenge to check, but Wikipedia seems to have the closest I can find to a credible list. The result?

  • Denmark: two serial killers in the 20th century
  • Finland: two serial killers in the 20th century
  • Iceland: one serial killer—in the 16th century
  • Norway: one serial killer in the 20th century
  • Sweden: five serial killers in the 19th and 20th centuries

The Thirst (Harry Hole #11) by Jo Nesbø (2017) 480 pages ★★★★☆

Now, Wikipedia can’t be relied upon as the final authority on this (or any other) question. There may well have been more than a total of ten serial killers in Scandinavia over the past two centuries. But, even if the actual number is double that, how do you think the total compares to the number of novels that have come out of that region about serial killers? Jo Nesbø alone seems to have written more than a dozen of them!

So here we are in the new Harry Hole detective novel, The Thirst, back in the Oslo Police District with Inspector Harry Hole, Norway’s most celebrated (and controversial) detective. At first, there’s no serial killer in sight, and Harry isn’t even a member of the Crime Squad anymore. He’s a lecturer at the Police College, where his classes are attended not just by police recruits but often by active police officers as well.

Harry Hole is Norway’s reigning expert on serial killers

Harry is Norway’s reigning expert on serial killers. So, when one gruesome murder turns into two and threatens to become three or more, Police Chief Mikael Bellmon is forced to press Harry back into service. Harry isn’t inclined to do any favors for Bellmon, his sworn enemy. But the chief blackmails him into taking his job back. If Harry won’t help save the day, Bellmon will reveal his stepson, Oleg’s, drug addiction as a teenager, forcing him out of the Police College, where Oleg is preparing to follow in Harry’s footsteps.

Yes, Harry has now been married for three years to the love of his life, Rakel Fauke. And her now 22-year-old son, Oleg, is a third-year candidate for the Oslo Police and is now living with his girlfriend. For what may be the first time ever, Harry is happy. He’s on the wagon, and he has discovered a love for teaching.

We know there will be more unspeakably ugly murders

Of course, this is Harry Hole we’re talking about, and the novel was written by Jo Nesbø, so we’re well aware things won’t stay this way for long. We can be sure that there will be more unspeakably ugly murders, something will happen to disrupt Harry’s blissful family life, and Harry will eventually find himself passed out by a collection of empty whiskey bottles. There will also be an extraordinarily complex plot, engaging dialogue, innumerable references to rock music (Nesbø is the lead singer for a rock band), fresh revelations about several of the recurring characters in the Harry Hole series, and a great many surprises.

Thirst is a theme that runs throughout this novel. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t yet read the book, so all I’ll say that it isn’t Harry who reflects about the subject in this way: “When you have access to drink, what could be more pleasant, more rational and more normal than feeling thirsty?” On second though, I’ll disclose this much: the central thread in the story is vampirism. I’m sure you get the point.

This is one of The outstanding Harry Hole thrillers from Jo Nesbo.

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