If you're a fan of complex police drama, intelligenty written and cleverly crafted, then the talented Norwegian author Jo Nesbo's crime fiction should find a place on your bookshelf. "Nemesis" is the third English translation of Nesbo's tales of Oslo police inspector Harry Hole, chronologically fitting in between the two previous US releases, "The Redbreast" and "The Devil's Star" - both excellent and well worth finding and reading.
"Nemesis" starts with Hole painstakingly reviewing the surveillance video of an Oslo bank robbery that escalates to murder at the hand of the coldly proficient perp, an obvious professional who leaves nothing to chance, his face concealed with a baklava, his voice unprintable, no fingerprints, no fibers, few clues of any kind to crack the case. But from Jo Nesbo's pen, a mere bank robbery, even if seemingly unsolvable, is pedestrian. So to compensate, the author spins multiple and apparently disconnected story lines into hapless Harry's investigation and life, resulting in a near epic tale of crime that, while a bit confusing at times, is exactly the kind of convoluted crime mystery that will keep you glued to the pages, scratching your head, and by the end marveling through an expected series of whiplashing twists and Holmes-like deductive reasoning.
So back to those parallel threads. With Harry's beloved Rackel and son Olav off to Moscow to settle an ugly child custody case, Harry reluctantly succumbs to an almost-innocent dinner invitation of Anna, an ex-lover. The next morning, Harry awakes in what is apparently an alcohol-induced blackout with no memory of events of the previous twelve hours. This becomes a rather inconvenient issue when Anna is found dead in her apartment the next morning. While chasing down leads to the bank heist with criminologist Beate Lonn, Harry surreptitiously probes the death of Anna which, while ruled a suicide by the Oslo PD, Harry finds nagging incongruities, keeping them to himself but wanting the truth. While the introverted Beate Lonn pulls critical bank job clues from grainy video, Harry's solo investigative efforts into Anna's death wind their way into the mysterious and potentially deadly gypsy culture, including the most intriguing relationship between cop and incarcerated villain since "Silence of the Lamb's" Clarice Starling sparred with the brilliantly demented Hannibal Lecter.
Nesbo rises above the pack in crime writing with convincing characters and unusual themes, set against an appropriately gritty, dark, and dank Scandinavian backdrop. Hole is the interesting but not uncommon pulp cop - an alcoholic, a loaner an unrepentant maverick, the bane and joy of his beleaguered boss's professional life. But the real magic here is Nesbo's painstaking attention to detail and plot development, a master of foreshadow and deception, hiding critical clues for the reader in the most unlikely places, while building momentum for a climax as cerebral as it was suspenseful.
One final recommendation: if you haven't read any of Nesbo's Harry Hole novels, it would be best to start with "Redbreast", followed by this one, saving "The Devil's Star" for last. While each novel does stand on its own, Nesbo has the fiendishly clever habit of leaving some unfinished threads in each of these tales, so reading them out of sequence can be a bit unsettling. In any event, just do yourself a favor and subject yourself to the not-so-guilty pleasures of this accomplished crime writer.