Jo Nesbo's 'Police': high-octane Nordic noir

Like all of Nesbo's work, this story of cop killings is so dark and intense that immersion for an extended period is not for the sensitive

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The Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is known and duly praised for his crime thrillers featuring the mightily flawed but extraordinarily instinctive detective Harry Hole (pronounced "Hoo-leh"). With his new book "Police," Mr. Nesbo continues the story he started in his previous Harry Hole novel "Phantom."

If you are new to Mr. Nesbo, it's important to read "Phantom" first. Plots, characters and themes are revisited and continued without much explanation in "Police."


By Jo Nesbo.
Knopf ($25.95).

And as Mr. Nesbo's storytelling can wear you out, it is not recommended that you jump right from "Phantom" to "Police." A palate cleanser in between is in order, something like, say, Dr. Seuss.

Mr. Nesbo's work is so dark, intense and bone chilling that immersion in his world for an extended period is not for the sensitive. This review will attempt to thread the needle of spoiler avoidance, so plot details will be few.

It will be no surprise to Mr. Nesbo's admirers that the plot is intricate and surprising, with blind alleys and misdirection, but not far-fetched. Harry is a compelling hero/antihero whose ongoing influence on his police comrades and friends is demonstrated throughout "Police."

As Mr. Nesbo has created him, Harry is a man who could easily have become one of the master criminals he hunts, if not for a moral compass which happens to point in the right direction.

He is close to few people, and these people, those who "get" him, are fiercely loyal and inspired by him. So small is this group that Harry's cell phone directory identifies his contacts by a first initial only. Almost all of these contacts appear in "Police," with the law enforcement professionals among them forming a "super squad" to address a rash of cop killings.

Police officers are being killed at the sites of unsolved murders that they themselves investigated. Repercussions are felt into the upper echelons of Oslo police headquarters and city government. Media frenzy ensues.

After the wildly intense lone wolf aspect of "Phantom," the group dynamic of the task force is welcome and showcases that Harry's associates are also highly effective in their work. Even minor characters are masterfully drawn.

Mr. Nesbo's books (or more accurately, the translations of his books) are continuing to be released in the United States on a piecemeal basis. The first in the Harry Hole series, "The Bat," was only recently released here, and the second, "Cockroaches," is slated for release in December. The U.S. availability of these first two books in the series comes after the subsequent eight novels have already been available.

So for those who wish to jump into to the noir Norwegian world of Jo Nesbo, I have a suggestion. As any "Game of Thrones" fan knows: Winter is coming. Stock up on the Harry Hole series from the beginning and hunker down and get your inner Norwegian on. Sit in front of an ultraviolet light between books to dispel the creepiness. Think about the fjords. Then take a deep breath and start the next wild ride.


Kathleen Guzzi is a writer living in Ross ( First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM


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