Archive for Oslo

Rødstrupe [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2015 by xi'an

In the common room of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Warwick [same building as the Department of Statistics], there is a box for book exchanges and I usually take a look at each visit for a possible exchange. In October, I thus picked Jo Nesbø’s The Redbreast in exchange for maybe The Rogue Male. However, it stood on my office bookcase for another three months before I found time to read this early (2000) instalment in the Harry Hole series. With connections with the earliest Redeemer.

This is a fairly good if not perfect book, with a large opening into Norway’s WW II history and the volunteers who joined Nazi Germany to fight on the Eastern Front. And the collaborationist government of Vidkin Quissling. I found most interesting this entry into this period and the many parallels with French history at the same time. (To the point that quisling is now a synonym for collaborator, similar to pétainiste in French.) This historical background has some similarities with Camilla Lackberg‘s Hidden Child I read a while ago but on a larger and broader scale. Reminiscences and episodes from 1940-1944 take a large part of the book. And rightly so, as the story during WW II explains a lot of the current plot. While this may sound like an easy story-line, the plot also dwells a lot on skinheads and neo-Nazis in Olso. While Hole’s recurrent alcoholism irks me in the long run (more than Rebus‘ own alcohol problem, for some reason!), the construction of the character is quite well-done, along with a reasonable police force, even though both Hole’s inquest and the central crime of the story are stretching on and beyond belief, with too many coincidences. And a fatal shot by the police leads to very little noise and investigation, in a country where the murder rate is one of the lowest in the World and police officers do not carry guns. Except in Nesbø’s novels! Still, I did like the novel to the point of spending most of a Sunday afternoon on it, with the additional appeal of most of it taking place in Oslo. Definitely a page turner.

The Redeemer (Jo Nesbo)

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by xi'an

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.

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