The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

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The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Paul Curd
Reviewed by Paul Curd
Summary: An enjoyable read, but with too many themes and too many sub-plots, this thriller about an assassin whose mission goes pear-shaped never quite reaches boiling point.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 978-1846550409

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The Redeemer is the latest thriller from the Norwegian Jo Nesbø and once again features his alcoholic maverick cop, Inspector Harry Hole. It begins with a rape at a Salvation Army summer school, then leaps forward twelve years and two seasons, to freezing cold Oslo at Christmas. The Salvation Army is doing good works among the lowlife junkies of the Norwegian capital. One of them has slipped through the safety net, and Harry Hole is investigating his apparent suicide when one of the Sally Army officers is executed by a professional hit man. The assassin, a product of the war in the former Yugoslavia, realises he has murdered the wrong man but by now the indomitable Harry Hole is on the case . . .

In the past, I have found Nesbø's Harry Hole novels gripping and highly entertaining. The Redeemer has attracted equally high praise elsewhere, but I found it a slightly odd book. Nesbø spends a lot of time examining the formative years of the assassin, to such an extent that the reader becomes increasingly sympathetic to him as a character, especially after his mission goes awry and his situation becomes increasingly dire with the police closing in. The same approach of examining in some detail the nature and nurture of many of the other characters, while interesting to a point, seems a little out of place in a book purporting to be a fast-paced thriller. The effect, on this particular reader at least, was to promote a kind of universal empathy, to the extent that I wasn't particularly rooting for one side over another. To take a football analogy, reading a thriller should be like watching your team playing a much better team in an important cup tie – and eventually winning. But by the end of The Redeemer I had the feeling I was watching an International friendly. Technically, it was all very good, but although I was entertained I had no interest in the eventual outcome.

With too many themes and too many sub-plots it felt to me that Nesbø was trying too hard. In places, too, the book read like a film script, with an over-abundance of 'cut-to' scenes (the whole of chapter two, for example), and while the sudden jumping from scene to scene might work in a movie, on the page it had the counter-effect of diluting the tension. On the positive side, there were a number of well-worked set-piece scenes (a vacuum cleaner used as an instrument of torture, for instance) and Harry Hole's fluctuating relationships with alcohol and the opposite sex is always interesting.

Perhaps I was expecting too much after my enthusiastic response to Nesbø's earlier books. Perhaps it was because, since then, I have re-read the excellent Martin Beck series of books by Sjöwall and Wahlöö. (Beck was the prototype for, among others, Wallander, Rebus and Harry Hole.) In my humble opinion, Nesbø could not hope to compete with Sjöwall and Wahlöö. Whatever the reason, while an enjoyable read, I'm afraid I found The Redeemer never quite met my high expectations.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

We can recommend Nemesis by Jo Nesbo or anything by Stieg Larsson.

Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole Novels in Chronological Order

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