May 5, 2011

Nemesis by Jo Nesbø

Hersilia Press @ 9:03 am

NemesisNemesis by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I put this book on the top of my TBR pile because of the World Book Club event that the author had in London recently (the time lag between the event and the date I finished the book gives you an idea of the size of my TBR list at the time). I was slightly daunted by the 400 plus pages but I shouldn’t have been: the book reads like a dream.

It was the first Harry Hole book I read, despite the widespread advice to read them in order, which I (unwisely?) decided to ignore.

The novel starts with a bank robbery, unusual in that the teller is shot despite handing over the money immediately. Harry, the alcoholic and possibly most unconventional  member of Oslo’s police force, is part of the investigative team. On a personal level, his girlfriend is in Russia to try to gain custody of her sons, and Harry decides to have dinner with an old flame of his, Anna. Problem is, the following day he has no recollection of much of the evening, and she is found shot dead in her flat.  Harry then starts getting threatening emails but keeps his cool and while trying to find clues about the bank robbery/murder, he also tries to find out more about Anna’s death.

Of course the two are connected but the plot thickens and will keep you guessing until the very end, at least about the details. Despite a lot of characters and a complex storyline, Nemesis didn’t feel to me over the top, and I thought it achieved the perfect balance between describing Harry’s personal affairs and his involvement in the cases. It is written in a really flowing style so that the length of the book does not make it heavy.

This is a remarkable author and again, despite its size, I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

You can read about the BBC World Book Club interview in a previous post on the blog.

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March 21, 2011

The Inspector and Silence, by Hakan Nesser

Hersilia Press @ 11:02 am

The Inspector and SilenceThe Inspector and Silence by Håkan Nesser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although a crime fiction reader knows that a fiction book is just that, fiction, there still are some topics which are more disturbing than others. One of which is violence on children: and we know that this is going to be the theme of the book from the quote at the beginning.

When a teenage girl disappears from the Pure Life camp, run by a religious fanatic and his feeble-minded acolytes, inspector Van Veeteren is called in, despite the lack of evidence of a murder, even after the girl’s body is found. Then a second body is found in the wood and rumours start to emerge about the oddness of the sect and its members, and the goings-on at the camp.

Van Veeteren tries to interrogate various people at the camp but the young girls have been brainwashed and the adult women refuse to make any comments except to support their leader unconditionally. After extending the investigation further, Van Veeteren finally discovers an uncomfortable and disturbing truth.

Despite the grimness of the topic, Inspector and Silence is extremely discerning in the descriptions and this is not a violent book – descriptive violence not necessarily being a requirement of crime fiction, indeed in my opinion often detracting from the quality of the writing.

The description of the environment is extremely suggestive and as already mentioned, the difficult topic is dealt with very judiciously. The translation by Laurie Thomson manages to convert excellently a large number of idioms and the unusual expressions of Van Veeteren, achieving a good measure of fun even within the boundaries of a grim investigation.

Van Veeteren is an older and experienced detective and is looking forward to his retirement, and despite this being a character whose traits are not unique to the crime fiction literature we can’t help but empathise with him and the small pleasures of good food and wine.

I have enjoyed this book very much and am looking forward to reading the others in the series very soon.

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March 9, 2011

Jo Nesbø at the BBC World Book Club

Hersilia Press @ 10:55 am

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the recording of the BBC World Book Club talking about The Redbreast with Jo Nesbø a couple of days ago. It was a great and rare experience being able to share the discussion of a book with none other than its author.

The presenter, Harriett Gilbert, started with the question we all wanted to ask: what is the correct pronunciation of his own and his protagonist’s name? After establishing that the English and Norwegian pronunciations don’t sound anything like each other, it was agreed to use the ‘English’ version, which was a relief!

The discussion started with a very frank recollection of Jo’s youth when his father told him about his own role as a German supporter in the Second World War and his harrowing experiences, which shaped the background of the book, the first in the Harry Hole series which currently runs to eight with the latest The Leopard.

More questions from the audience in the room, as well as on the phone and by email, brought to light an extremely talented and multifarious personality: a former stockbroker, a musician and an undoubtedly talented writer all in one. We also learnt about the origin of the title, the real people behind Harry Hole, and the origin of the ‘apple’ instrument of torture described in his latest book, The Leopard.

Jo’s thoughts on writing were perhaps the most anticipated of the discussion: we talked about his occasional plot strands left hanging (reflecting real life, where there isn’t closure on everything), about when he started writing, when he realised that the book was becoming a series, and why Scandinavian crime is so popular.

Although Jo doesn’t like to know the personality of the storyteller (for example, he says he doesn’t read his friends’ books) as this ‘stands in the way of the story’, he wasn’t reluctant to tell us more about himself, his experiences of life and of writing The Redbreast: why the Northern European detectives seem to be all gloomy and depressed, what writers influenced him, and the process of working out the plot of the book.

He commented on the possible end of the series but didn’t give away anything to the fans: we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for the next book!

The programme will be broadcast on Saturday 2 April for BBC World Book Club. Don’t miss it!