Book Review: Superb “Redbreast”

A brilliant evocation of how the tentacles of the past cling to the present. His powerful novel delves into the complexity of belief and collaboration. Seattle Post Intelligencer

The master thriller writer

By Roger Childs

Scandinavia has a rich heritage in crime literature and Jo Nesbo is one of the best in a crowded field. The man has many strings to his longbow: soccer player, song writer, vocalist, economist and children’s writer.

He has an international reputation for his novels, notably those based around the very insightful and sometimes disreputable detective, Harry Hole.

Redbreast is a Nesbo classic and Norwegians have voted it the best crime novel ever; they are rarely wrong.

The long shadow of Nazi collaboration

Vidkun Quisling

This is a very sensitive issue in Norway today, even though it’s 73 years since the end of World War II.

Vidkun Quisling was the leader of the Norwegian puppet state during the war and his name has come into the English language meaning traitor.

Nesbo’s story moves backwards and forwards from the early 1940s when tens of thousands of Norwegians served on the German Eastern Front near Leningrad, to 1999 – 2000. At the end of the 20th century some of the survivors have links with the right wing neo-Nazi movement and they are being systematically murdered.

Hole on the case

Harry has disgraced himself during the visit of the American president to Oslo.

It wasn’t really his fault, however he is “promoted” to inspector, which, conveniently for some of his superiors and public servants, gets him out of the capital.

However, his police bosses realise they need Harry when the corpses keep mounting.

So he’s back on the neo-Nazi trail and in his efforts to keep people alive and solve the cases he meets up with some of the Eastern Front survivors.

Beautifully structured and written

The plot wriggles like a snake as the settings shift not only between Oslo and the Eastern Front, but also to South Africa and Vienna.

Nesbo’s descriptions are brilliantly evocative and his characters are finely drawn. The pace never lets up and the outcomes along the way are rarely predictable.

As USA Today put it: Reading “Redbreast” is like watching a hit movie.

If you haven’t read any of Jo Nesbo, don’t hesitate. In the densely packed field of thriller writers, the Norwegian stands at the top of the tree.





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