Jo Nesbo left me hanging at the end of the previous Harry Hole novel - Phantom (my review). Phantom was the 9th book in this Scandinavian series that features the conflicted and complicated Detective Hole. But the first book - The Bat - that introduces us to Harry is only now newly released in North America. You can bet I jumped at the chance to read it!
Harry is sent to Australia to assist with a murder investigation as the victim was a Norwegian national. But the local cops define 'assist' differently.
"What you're gonna do is watch carefully while we haul the bastard in, tell the Norwegian press along the way what a wonderful job we're doing together - making sure we don't offend anyone at the Norwegian embassy, or relatives, - and otherwise enjoy a break and send a card or two to your dear Chief Constable."
Harry is not the focus of the first part of the book. Instead we are introduced to Aussie detective Andrew, who has a sense of where he wants the investigation to go. Andrew was a strong personality and I felt slightly overwhelmed by this character. Nesbo weaves much Aboriginal history and lore into the narrative, which I found really interesting. It also added much to the plot.
Harry and his personality begin to emerge slowly as the book progresses. I was hoping that Nesbo would allow us some insight as to where Harry's tortured psyche springs from and I wasn't disappointed. And, as the case develops, the Harry that I've come to enjoy so much emerges. The character of Harry has been refined and darkened and sharpened over the course of the next eight books, but in The Bat we meet a raw, wounded version of the detective to come. One with "a weakness for living."
But, what hasn't changed is Nesbo's plotting. The Bat is an excellent detective novel that provided a 'kept me guessing' plot with lots of suspects to choose from. Reading the first in this series just confirmed why I have Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole on my must read list. Nesbo combines fantastic characters, great plotting, lots of action and suspense and yes, social commentary into addictive reads. Check out an excerpt of The Bat.
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