Monday, 29 July 2013

The Bat - Jo Nesbo

This is the first Harry Hole, published in Norway as far back as 1997 but not translated into English until 2012.  When I first learnt The Bat existed, I wondered why hadn't they brought it out in America and the UK?  Having read it, I know why.  It isn't as good as whatever they started the English run with.

It's OK - better than OK and a good bit better than most other Nordic Noir thrillers that have been hurriedly published in the wake of Nesbo's success - but it is nowhere near as good as books like The Redeemer and The Leopard.  It is a million miles from the mighty Headhunters.  Frankly, I wish they hadn't bothered.

For starters, it isn't Nordic, it's Aussie with a guest Nord.  Harry has been flown off to the southern hemisphere after a minor Norwegian TV personality is murdered in Sydney.  This in itself is wholly implausible.  It quickly becomes irritating that the Australians can't pronounce Hole the Norwegian way and take to calling him Harry Holy.  Even Nesbo can't make a joke as thin as that last 374 pages.  There are long, tedious tracts of Aboriginal folklore which have no connection with the story and are there to show off Nesbo's research.  The red herring might as well wear a red herring hat it is so obvious he's not the killer and the real bad guy can be arrived at by the Agatha Christie method (i.e. who do we think is least likely to have done it?)  I finished the book less than twelve hours ago and have already forgotten why he did it.

For all that, the story moves along at an engaging pace, you get a lot of Harry's backstory, and Nesbo is always worth reading.  I believe there's another early Harry still to be translated.  I'd like to say I'll give it a miss, but I probably won't.

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