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The Redbreastby Jo Nesbo
Synopses & Reviews
Police Detective Harry Hole has made a terrible mistake. An embarrassment in the line of duty has pulled him off his usual beat. Reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks, he reluctantly agrees to monitor neo-Nazi activities in Oslo. But as Hole is drawn into an underground world of illegal gun trafficking, brutal beatings, and sexual extortions, he soon learns that he must act fast to prevent an international conspiracy from unfolding.
Trapped in the crosshairs of the man with all the answers, Harry Hole plunges headlong into a mystery with roots deep in the past. His investigation takes him back to Norway's darkest hour—when members of the young nation's government collaborated with leaders of Nazi Germany. Dredging up a painful history of denial, Hole turns his attention to the Norwegian troops who fought for Adolf Hitler on the Eastern front. Branded by their countrymen as traitors, the soldiers who survived the brutal Russian winter—the hunger, fear, cold, grenades, and snipers—returned home as scapegoats of a nation's atonement. Sixty years later, old grudges and betrayals appear to have been laid to rest, until Hole realizes that someone has begun to pick off the surviving soldiers one by one.
With only his troubled, guilt-ridden conscience as a guide, Hole must move quickly through the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. But as his sanity slips in a slow burn of anger and alcohol, his mistakes continue to pile up. And if he fails to quicken the pace, Norway's darkest hour since World War II just might lie in the future.
In a tightly woven plot that takes readers from the icy steppes of the Russian front to a seemingly peaceful springtime in modern-day Oslo, Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø delves into a sinister national history with uncommon bravery. Transforming shades of moral gray into an explosive palette of characters, Nesbø holds readers in suspense until the final pages. His deft orchestration of parallel narratives knows no match in the genre, and his thematic reach exceeds even the most ambitious thrillers on the market. With the U.S. publication of The Redbreast, American readers will learn what European readers have known for a decade—that Nesbø's writing is "quite simply brilliant" (Weekend-Avisen, Denmark).
"Shifting effortlessly between the last days of WWII on the Eastern front and modern day Oslo, Norwegian Nesbø (The Devil's Star) spins a complex tale of murder, revenge and betrayal. A recovering alcoholic recently reassigned to the Norwegian Security Service, Insp. Harry Hole begins tracking Sverre Olsen, a vicious neo-Nazi who escaped prosecution on a technicality. But what starts as a quest to put Olsen behind bars soon explodes into a race to prevent an assassination. As Hole struggles to stay one step ahead of Olsen and his gang of skinheads, Nesbø takes the reader back to WWII, as Norwegians fighting for Hitler wage a losing battle on the Eastern front. When the two story lines finally collide, it's up to Hole to stop a man hell-bent on carrying out the deadly plan he hatched half a century ago in the trenches. Perfectly paced and painfully suspenseful, this crime novel illuminates not only Norway's alleged Nazi ties but also its present skinhead subculture. Readers will delight in Hole, a laconic hero as doggedly stubborn as Connelly's Harry Bosch, and yet with a prickly appeal all his own." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The publisher of Jo Nesbo's 'The Redbreast' reports that it was voted 'Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written' by members of Norwegian book clubs. I am not qualified to comment on that judgment, nor will I venture any dumb jokes about it, but will say that this is a fine novel, ambitious in concept, skillful in execution and grown-up in its view of people and events. In important ways it's also a... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) political novel, one concerned with the threat of fascism, in Norway and by implication everywhere. All in all, 'The Redbreast' certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction. Nesbo's story begins with the fascism of World War II, when Vidkun Quisling's puppet regime ruled in Norway and thousands of young Norwegians volunteered to serve alongside German troops. After the war ended, many of those soldiers who returned to Norway were called traitors and sent to prison, and spent the rest of their lives embittered by this 'betrayal.' Early in the novel, we see several Norwegians fighting under terrible conditions at Leningrad in 1942-43. Some are killed or wounded, and the fate of others is unclear. These wartime scenes alternate with a present-day plot that shows neo-Nazis in Oslo. One is on trial for a vicious, unprovoked attack with a baseball bat on a Vietnamese restaurant owner. This skinhead makes ugly speeches in the courtroom ('Those of you who are trying to pretend that there is not a racial struggle going on here are either blind or traitors') and is freed on a technicality. A detective named Harry Hole watches in disgust. A troublemaker like all good fictional detectives, Harry discovers that someone has smuggled into Norway a Maerklin, one of the most powerful and expensive rifles ever made. We know, although Harry does not, that the young skinhead he saw in court helped obtain the rifle for an old man who is dying of cancer. The old man is one of the soldiers from Leningrad. We learn that he is a bitter-end fascist, but we don't know whom he proposes to kill. The old man's cancer can be taken as a symbol of Nazism itself, as when he reflects, 'He did his best not to think about cells dividing and dividing and dividing.' Norway's neo-Nazi cells also are dividing. Several people are killed. We meet aging veterans of the Eastern Front, but don't know which is the killer. We also meet a police official who secretly works with the neo-Nazis, and a senior official of the Foreign Office who's a closet fascist. This vain diplomat uses his status to force himself on young women, after which he makes I-am-superman speeches to them: 'Our lifestyle demands of us that occasionally we have to be brutal, and this brutality requires strength.' All this unfolds smoothly. We often don't know what's happening — has this man changed his name? did that soldier survive or die? — but we want to know, and we have clues to lead us on. Nesbo's writing is straightforward but with nice touches here and there. A soldier's head 'hung like a snapped dandelion between his narrow soldiers.' Harry sees 'a white cloud scud across the sky like a passing doubt.' The end of the book, as Harry races to stop the old man from carrying out his assassination, recalls the suspenseful ending of 'The Day of the Jackal.' And the fact that Nesbo is able to make us understand, almost sympathize with, one crazy, homicidal old Nazi is itself an achievement. Not many novelists try to humanize Nazis. Nesbo did some of his research close to home: His father, at age 18, was one of the Norwegians who fought at Leningrad. My only objection to the book is one I have about a good many novels. It has to do with names. In this case they're Norwegian, but that's not the problem. The problem is that two of the soldiers are named Gudeson and Gudbrand — and, after 500 pages, if you put a gun to my head, I still couldn't tell you which is which. Two villains, 50-odd years apart, are Brockhard and Brandhaug. Other characters are named Signe, Sindre and Sverre. And there are policemen named Moller and Meirik and an old soldier named Mosken. The mind reels. Having written novels, I know that dreaming up names can drive you nuts, but coping with all-too-similar names can do the same to readers. I think Nesbo could have treated us with a bit more consideration, name-wise. That aside, 'The Redbreast' is an admirable meditation on how, generation after generation, the ugliest human instincts manifest themselves in a criminality that calls itself politics." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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“An elegant and complex thriller….Harrowingly beautiful.”
—New York Times Book Review
“A hugely impressive achievement—ambitious in scope, and skilled in execution.”
“The Redbreast certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.”
No disrespect meant to Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, but Jo Nesbø, the New York Times bestselling author of The Snowman, is the most exciting Scandinavian thriller writer in the crime fiction business. The Redbreast is a fabulous introduction to Nesbøs tough-as-nails series protagonist, Oslo police detective Harry Hole. A brilliant and epic novel, breathtaking in its scope and design—winner of The Glass Key for best Nordic crime novel and selected as the best Norwegian crime novel ever written by members of Norways book clubs—The Redbreast is a chilling tale of murder and betrayal that ranges from the battlefields of World War Two to the streets of modern-day Oslo. Follow Hole as he races to stop a killer and disarm a ticking time-bomb from his nations shadowy past. Vogue magazine says that “nobody can delve into the dark, twisted mind of a murderer better than a Scandinavian thriller writer”…and nobody does it better than Jo Nesbø! James Patterson fans should also take note.
About the Author
Jo NesbØ is a musician, songwriter, economist, and author. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Glass Key, the Riverton Prize, and the Booksellers' Prize, and Norwegian readers voted one of his Harry Hole novels the best Norwegian crime novel of all time. He lives in Oslo.
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