If you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about crime fiction, you know my feelings about Jo Nesbo and his Harry Hole novels. I am an unabashed champion of this series, and for good reason. My high praise for this series has a lot to do with Nesbo’s writing style and attention to detail. Often times crime fiction is plagued by the stereotype of being low-brow or kitschy, but those stereotypes ignore the deeply rooted themes carried by crime fiction. Themes like love, loss, the fear of death, and the stark realities of the world we live in are ones every reader can relate to, and authors like Jo Nesbo tackle them with grace and poise.
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room; it’s been more than a little frustrating to be a Nesbo fan in America. The seemingly random publishing schedule for the Harry Hole novels have forced readers to experience the series out of chronological order; some of us like to read a series in order! The Redeemer is the sixth Harry Hole novel, falling in line between The Devil’s Star and The Snowman, which means fans of the series will need to wrack their brains trying to remember what took place way back when. Honestly, it’s not that hard to recall the past exploits of ne’er-do-well detective Harry Hole and Nesbo (as always) does a great job of reminding his readers without going into full on review mode. Okay, now that we’ve talked about how annoying reading series books out of order is, we can move on to the task at hand.
In The Redeemer we are taken back to the early days of Harry Hole; before the effects of age and substance abuse really started to catch up with him. The story begins with Harry having the unfortunate task of informing a family that their son, a heroin addict, has committed suicide. In typical Nesbo style, the books beginning functions as a launchpad for the events to come. The main plot line is about an assassin who has traveled to Oslo to complete a contract. Things go badly when the assassin, codenamed The Little Redeemer, discovers that the target he has eliminated is actually the brother of the intended target.
If you’ve read the other books in this series and think The Redeemer is worth skipping, you are dead wrong. This novel fills in a lot of the gaps left after The Devil’s Star and Nemesis, and is a must read if just for the sake of continuity. If the gap-filling aspect of The Redeemer isn’t enough to entice you then maybe the fact that this is also a fantastic mystery will do the trick. It has all the hallmarks of a great thriller; atmosphere, intriguing characters, plot twists aplenty, and Harry Hole’s reckless detective style.
The Redeemer also contains a lot of my favorite aspect of Nesbo’s books; a lot of time is devoted to the perspective of the antagonist. As the novels comes to a close you truly understand the motivations of each and every character, and that’s something that many crime writers choose not to do. If there’s one thing Nesbo does well it’s giving readers a holistic view of the story. All the pieces fall into place, and all of your questions are given a satisfying answer.
If you’re already a fan of this series, picking up The Redeemer should be a no-brainer. If you’ve never read a Jo Nesbo book, it’s probably not a great idea to start with The Redeemer, but luckily Vintage Books has just published the first Harry Hole novel, The Bat, as a paperback original. So run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore and get cracking on what is arguably the best detective series currently available.