Leave it to Jo Nesbø to link ritual murder, Satanism, police corruption, desperate love affairs, Norwegian geography, alcoholism, sex, diamond smuggling, the German Army in World War II, and obscure forensic discoveries in a single book — and somehow make it all work.
The Devil’s Star, first published in Norwegian in 2003, the fifth of Nesbo’s ten novels in the Inspector Harry Hole series, is a worthy example of the author’s brilliance. There are few his equal writing crime fiction anywhere.
As the story opens, Harry is living his own special brand of hell in an alcoholic haze on almost a daily basis. His absenteeism from the Oslo Police and his stubborn insistence on disobeying regulations almost as a matter of principle are pushing everyone around him to the breaking point. Rakel, the love of Harry’s life, has banished him from her home. His boss, Bjarne Moller (no, not Barney Miller of TV fame), is close to the point where he will refuse to cover up any more for the incorrigible detective. His nemesis, a fellow detective named Tom Waaler, appears to be gathering steam to kill Harry, who believes Waaler is “The Prince,” the head of a large gun-smuggling ring.
The Devil’s Star (Harry Hole #5) by Jo Nesbø @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Into this bleak and painful time in Harry’s life he is suddenly confronted with two high-profile cases in quick succession: an unattached young woman is found brutally murdered in her apartment, and mere days later another woman, a talented musical comedy star, disappears. Harry plunges into the two investigations with as much energy as he can muster. As so often in Nesbo’s novels, the deeper he digs the greater the mystery becomes — in both cases. Suspects emerge, with and without alibis. Then come additional murders, and more suspects. Is there a connection between the first two cases? A pattern is emerging, but what is the motive?
It’s clear that Harry will triumph in the end — but how? Who is the serial murderer? How will Harry defeat Tom Waaler? How can he possibly manage to reunite with Rakel? On every front in this exceedingly clever thriller, the tension builds from beginning to end.
I’ve previously reviewed The Bat (1997), Cockroaches (1998), The Redbreast (2000), Nemesis (2002), and The Redeemer (2005). This completes my survey of the first six novels in the series. You can be sure I’ll get to the others reasonably soon.
For additional reading
This is one of The outstanding Harry Hole thrillers from Jo Nesbo.
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