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The Redbreast: A Book Review

Updated on April 29, 2011

The Redbreast is a Norwegian book by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett and published by Harper Collins.

Norwegian readers voted Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast the best crime novel ever. It is the third book in the Inspector Harry Hole series, and the first translated into English. It would be nice to read them in order, but this is a good Harry Hole book to start with.

His name seems unusual but according to his publisher, Hole is pronounced O as in pool and e as in ethnic.

Inspector Hole is investigating the Neo-Nazis in Norway and finds evidence that an illegal rifle was smuggled into the country. His investigation takes him back to World War II and the Norwegians sympathetic to Hitler. Some of them fought for Germany. The novel moves back and forth between their story and Hole’s investigation. My one complaint of the book is that I thought that the first of these war episodes was a little clunky and disjointed which made it awkward to read. After that first episode, these scenes smooth out.

Hole thinks the random murder of an old drunk from the war group is linked to the rifle. He investigates a Neo-Nazi and finds the young man may be a middleman in supplying the rifle, and learns the man in charge of the gun running operation is known as “The Prince.”

Murders of those from the war indicate the murderer has a master plan and purpose for the killings. Inspector Hole pursues the clues in the hope of finding the motive for revenge, and catching the prince. The twists keep coming to the end to make this an engaging book.

In some ways, to me, this book has somewhat of an American feel to it.  Hole is somewhat of a renegade type of lone wolf. He works with others, but is independent and outspoken. This isn’t as much a team book as some of the other Scandinavian crime novels.

I recommend The Redbreast. It is well worth reading and an engaging book.


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