The Bat – Jo Nesbo

Setting: Sydney, Australia.

Story: Harry Hole is a Norwegian detective, sent to Australia to keep him out of harm’s way, and to get to the bottom of the murder-rape of a young Norwegian girl. He follows his Australian counterparts as they dig into the mystery, to find out who killed the girl, and witnesses the unravelling of something even more troubling and deadly. There’s a serial killer out there, and he may have Harry in his sights.

(This is the first Harry Hole book, only recently translated into English.)

The Good Stuff: Harry Hole is a great character.He is one of the best defective detectives, with a core weakness – his alcoholism – stiffened by some poor choices from time to time. He is witty, clever, sharp, dogged, and a keen observer of the human condition. Through him we see the seamy side of Australia, and get to discover the truth behind the killing of his young compatriot. There are other fine characters as well, though, and that is much to the author’s credit. Harry is centre stage, but the supporting cast – the aboriginal policeman, the transvestite clown, the boxing prodigy, the barmaid – also come across a real. However, Nesbo does quite a thorough job of filling in Hole’s past, so there’s no doubting the star attraction.

More Good Stuff: The plot and pacing are spot on. Everything slots into place, seamlessly. There are enough twists and shocks to satisfy. The dialogue is snappy, the backgrounds are authentic, the sense of this being It is a well rounded, masterful piece of writing.

Not So Good Stuff: And the next question, please? I’m struggling here. If pushed, I would say that Hole seems to get a little too much leeway at certain times, and that stretches the suspension of disbelief. But, as I said, I’m struggling. This is a great book.

Score: 9/10