Nesbo, Jo - 'The Redbreast' (translated by Don Bartlett)
As is publishers wont, THE REDBREAST, though translated after THE DEVIL'S STAR actually precedes it. THE REDBREAST is the third in the Harry Hole series whereas, THE DEVIL'S STAR, is the fifth.
Detective Harry Hole of the Oslo police is an alcoholic but has been pulled back together with the help of his work partner Ellen Gjelten. When a routine security assignment goes horribly wrong Harry is promoted upstairs to monitor neo-Nazi activity. When reports that an unusual sniper gun is being sought, Harry begins to take an interest, especially when shells from the gun seem to have been used at a target practice in a forest.
Meanwhile, the reader is being related the tale of a group of soldiers who defected to the German cause in the second world war and fought on the Russian front. As the pages go by, the two narrative threads begin to interweave until the breathless finale.
THE REDBREAST is a complicated tale and the repercussions of one particular event will carry over into later books. There is a heartbreaking chapter, midway through the story, both shocking and upsetting. Unlike the general impression of Scandinavian crime fiction there is also humour in the writing.
I found THE REDBREAST a fabulous read, combining a gripping modern day mystery with informative chapters about Norway in the war. Nesbo's Oslo comes to life, more than in any other writer's books I've read set there. Populated with well-drawn and memorable characters, it is Harry who is the star. With a dry humour and a will to do the right thing he's someone I want to spend more time with.
It's no surprise that THE REDBREAST has been recently shortlisted for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie International Dagger. This award also recognises the contribution of the translator, in this case Don Bartlett.
Read another review of THE REDBREAST.
Karen Meek, England