Jo Nesbo: If You Like Good Scandinavian Crime Novels Better Than Stieg Larsson's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy
If You Like Stieg and Lisbeth Salander, Try Jo Nesbo!
Stieg Larsson is everywhere you turn these days: On New York Times bestseller lists, in airports and drug stores, on audiobooks and even on Oprah and news program that are fascinated by his early death and the family feuds that have erupted between Eva Gabrielsson, his longtime girlfriend/partner, and his brother and father over who owns the rights to Larsson's fictional creations, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist.
Now, I like Stieg Larsson, and I devoured each book in the trilogy in hardback, as soon as it came out. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most original, exciting and interesting fictional characters in a long time, and I would love to read more books with that tattooed computer hacker in them.
But the author behind Salander is dead. That doesn't mean you need give up on terrific Scandinavian crime writing.
Scandinavian crime novels
Enter Harry Hole
Mikael Blomqvist is a fine character, but to me he reads as the fantasy self of an overweight, unhealthy, ambitious investigative journalist — all which Stieg Larsson was: Blomqvist breaks huge, regime-changing stories! He gets the girl! He gets the next girl too! Oh, and he lays the next girl, too, he is so irresistible! Then comes another giant break the likes of which a reporter gets once in a lifetime (not 15 months later), and which only our good, sexy, slutty Mikael can crack.
In contrast, there is Harry Hole.
Harry Hole is the fictional creation of Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo. Where Blomqvist is a lothario, Hole is a hopeless alcoholic with a pitiful track record when it comes to the ladies. Where Blomqvist has a Midas touch with work, interpersonal relationships and with the public, Hole is mistrusted, prickly and apparently always down on his luck. Hole is no less dogged than Blomqvist when on a case, though.
Like Blomquist in the first Larsson novel, present-day Hole tracks down Nazi-haunted histories and solves intricate present day crimes. And as with the Larsson/Salander stories, this Scandinavia is a dark world full of bad people doing evil, sadistic things.
But Hole is a much more flawed, much less idealized, and, at bottom, much more interesting character than Blomquist. Hole is more 'blue collar' than Blomqvist, and his relationships have a deeper ring of authenticity then do those of his shiny Swedish counterpart. And because Nesbo is still alive, there's good hope that this series will continue and the characters will evolve and get better with time. Already, five novels have been published in English.
No less a crime novelist than Michael Connelly has reviewed Nesbo's books: “Jo Nesbø is my new favorite thriller writer and Harry Hole my new hero.” —Michael Connelly.
If you enjoy edge-of-your-seat suspense, a gripping yarn that will keep you up all night, dark murder mysteries and flawed, human, brilliant detectives, you will enjoy these Harry Hole novels. If you loved the Stieg Larsson Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy and crave more, try these books Larsson's Norwegian neighbor and counterpart. In many ways they are superior, more successful novels than the Stieg Larsson trilogy. Because Nesbo is still alive, and still writing, his Harry Hole series also promise to be more satisfying as a long-term literary relationship.
Order of Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole novels
The English translations of Nesbo's novels start with The Redbreast, whose subject matter — a present day mystery and crime that dates back to World War II And the Nazi, Collaborative era — shares key elements with Nesbo's The Girl With The Drago Tattoo.
Nesbo's second Harry Hole novel translated into English is The Nemesis, which lays the ground work for the next novel, Dark Star.
After Dark Star comes The Redeemer. The Redeemer is not available in the U.S., but I was able to order it through Amazon from a British seller for about $12 including shipping. A fifth novel, The Snowman, came out in English in May 2011 and The Leopard published in the U.S. on Dec. 13, 2011.
The first two Harry Hole novels have not been translated into English, so the Redbreast is effectively book one.