Jo Nesbo in top form
By Ralph McAllister
The ubiquitous Jo Nesbo, the King of Scandinavian thriller writers, is back with his best story in some time.
Harry Hole, retired detective, returns, dragged away from his university job, to battle vampires in Norway, and, no guessing what the thirst in The Thirst is needed, to quench the craving.
Hole is his usual irascible self, much like his Scottish counterpart Rankin’s John Rebus.
How fascinating if those two were to meet sometime.
Dream on Ralph!
Nesbo gives Harry’s stepson Oleg a larger role, shades of future stories perhaps, and the usual suspects vie for scenes of blood and violence.
Not for the faint-hearted.
A novelist’s classy debut
Equally for the strong of stomach is Ian McGuire’s brilliant first novel The North Water, a whaling epic set in the Arctic in early 19th century.
Sumner, a disgraced, opium addicted surgeon, signs on for work on a vessel which like the Flying Dutchman, seems doomed from the start, particularly as the epitome of evil Henry Drax, rapist and murderer is on board.
McGuire writes with shades of Cormac McCarthy and Herman Melville present, but also with an individual voice of exquisite style and beauty, despite the horrific scenes of death and destruction.
As the story reached its terrifying climax I was actually gasping with shock.
If ever there was an overlooked candidate for the Man Booker, The North Water is it.
Another highly recommended debut
Easing away from the Arctic, The Nix is another debut novel, this time by American Nathan Hill, and it takes place in Chicago of the 60’s and present day.
Mother and son have been estranged for more than 40 years. Mother leaps into prominence by being captured on television throwing stuff at a prominent figure.
Son is persuaded to pay off advance royalty debts by meeting and writing a story of his, by now, famous or infamous mother.
This is a bizarre and often funny account of the times we lived through then and the political stupidities that we are certainly living through now.
An impressive first novel set on modern America
And finally, yet another first novel, this time from Imbolo Mboe, Behold the Dreamers.
Set at the time of the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008, Jendi and Neni are working in New York trying to live the American Dream.
They have two children, and are doing their best to give them the best of starts towards good lives.
In the story the wealthy and the poor exist side by side, as do privilege and poverty, loyalty and secrets, in a fascinating, simple and yet richly layered account of modern day America.
Mboe started this novel when she lost her job in New York during the Crash.
At least something good came out of that tragedy.
And this time, no blood!