The Redeemer (Jo Nesbo)

I picked this book in Oxford two months ago with some reticence because of “The next Stieg Larsson” sticker on it… Indeed, I did not like the underlying message of the Larsson Millenium trilogy, even though I admired the efficiency of the story-telling. Now, The Redeemer is the first book by Jo Nesbo I read and I rather liked it, at least conditional on the serial killer genre. Maybe the fact that it takes place in Oslo, a city I particularly like, makes it more interesting. Maybe the convoluted psychological features of the detective Harry and of the killers are much more convincing than in Larsson‘s books.

And our prejudices solve cases. Because they are not based on lack of knowledge, but on actual facts and experience. In this room we reserve the right to discriminate against everyone, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Our defence is that it is not exclusively the weakest members of the society  who are discriminated against (…) Since we work with probabilities and limited knowledge, we cannot afford to ignore knowledge wherever we find it.” J. Nesbo, The Redeemer (p. 143)

The central character is the detective, Harry Hole, who is looking as much for his true self than for the murderer. He is fighting against alcoholism, which almost had him thrown out of the police, against religious fanaticisms, against corruption within the force, against turning sexual encounters into longer term relationships and against regrets about his separation from his girlfriend Rakel, but (minor spoiler!) falls short of winning all those battles. Other characters are also well-built, from the professional assassin to the highly various actors from the Salvation Army. And the underlying theme of young girls’ abuses make the quest for the assassin more dramatic, with the endings completely unexpected. (If somewhat unrealistic.) I also like the understated way the story unfolds, which sounds very suited to snow-encased Oslo (even though some of its harsher aspects emerge at times). I should have read the three previous novels by Jo Nesbo in the series, but The Redeemer can easily be read as a stand-alone. Not perfect, but quite enjoyable and definitely gripping.

3 Responses to “The Redeemer (Jo Nesbo)”

  1. Jo Nesbø is great, really…. huge fan ! he is in my top five with Ian Rankin (sad leaving Rebus, but Fox is amazing), Arnaldur Indriðason, Henning Mankell and … (I’ll fill the blank later on, just to let you put whoever you want)

  2. Thank God, someone else who can’t stick those “THE NEXT XXXXX” tags publishers put on new authors. I see why they do it – rather like libraries having lists of authors tagged with “If you liked X, you’ll probably like Y” – trying to get people to buy books by reassuring them that what’s inside will be familiar – but it’s so predictable and so insulting to each author’s individuality. The only reason Nesbo gets called “The next Stieg Larsson” is because he’s Norwegian and writes crime fiction. That’s it! Going by those criteria, hey, I’m the next Iain Banks. Oh, goody. I’m sure he’d be thrilled. I know I am!
    Rant over; good review, by the way – thanks!

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