Monday, September 5, 2011

'The Redbreast' by Jo Nesbø

A book about neo-Nazis and psychotic gunmen running around Oslo was a disconcerting thing to be reading on the 22nd of July, 2011, as Anders Breivik went on the rampage. Despite how this sounds, Nesbø has fashioned a surprisingly subtle and intelligent thriller, whose parallels with the Norway attacks are fuel for the fire of those who claim that crime novelists are often the writers with their fingers closest to the national pulse.
Nesbø has been around a while, though he's only really come to prominence on the back of the Stieg Larsson-instigated wave of interest in Scandinavian crime fiction.

'The New _____________' labels of any kind tend to make my teeth all itchy, but it is particularly unhelpful in the case of comparisons between Nesbø and Larsson, as Nesbø is the superior writer by a fjordic mile. Where Larsson throws sordid sex scenes, product placement and half-baked cliffhangers at nearly every chapter, Nesbø brings an informed view of history and society and in his protagonist,  Detective Harry Hole, we get a highly believable, nuanced character capable of evincing genuine pathos.

And a much finer bandwagon to be on.


Tessa said...

Funny you should say that, Andrew. When I heard about the Norway massacre, I thought to myself that it sounded like a Jo Nesbo plot. I read about his work a few months ago, downloaded the lot on Kindle and read them over the space of a week. They have about as much in common with Larsson as they have with Enid Blyton's Five Find-outers and a Dog series.

Mind you, plot spoiler here - he does lose the run of himself with Snowman and the gore mounts up thereafter ...

Andrew said...

You read them all in a week, Tessa? That's mighty good going. I don't know about your side of the pond, but over here the covers of his books are often flashed with guff like 'The next Stieg Larsson'. I imagine it irritates him no end.

Rosie's read them all, so I have his entire catalogue to hand, but I decided to stay away from books about violent crime in Norway for at least a few months. But I'll get through them all eventually. He also has a new, non-Harry Hole one out called 'Headhunters' that is supposed to be good.

speccy said...

Also, he writes kids books! 8 year old is enjoying one about magic fart powder

Andrew said...

I'd heard about that one alright, Speccy. Glad to know he's pleasing the target audience, though I suspect I'd enjoy a book about magic fart powder somewhat more than I really care to admit to myself.

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