Many Americans were first introduced to Oslo Police Detective Harry Hole in Redbreast, the stunning novel by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. Though he’s already Scandinavia's version of Stephen King (kinda), Nesbo is relatively new to bookstores here in the States. Whereas Redbreast was part police procedural and part historical fiction, Nemesis replaces the latter with part thriller.
Norway’s Capital City is going through a ring of good old-fashioned bank robberies. Unlike most, one ends with a particularly cold-blooded murder. Seasoned detective Harry Hole, one of Oslo’s finest, is part of the team to investigate. Early in the investigation, Hole and his associates determine that the murder was the primary goal and the millions of Kroner were just the cherry on top.
Hole’s social life turns interesting when an old, old flame pays him a call. He agrees to meet her at her place for dinner. Sounds good. The next day, however, Hole wakes up with a hangover that could kill a horse (strange since he’s been ‘on the wagon’ for a while now) – and the old flame has killed herself.
While Hole investigates the bank crime, he realizes he’s become a suspect in his old flame’s suicide, which is probably not a suicide.
Nemesis possesses many of the traits that make this genre fun: police politics, quirky supporting characters (like the wonderful head-shrink Aune), and methodical development of plot. Unlike many of his American peers, Nesbo takes his time with the ending. The first of the multi-layered climax begins when there are still more than 100 pages left to read. This is not to say that the pace is slow; it is not. It is enticing while being deliberate. In the end, no stone is left unturned, and nearly every question is answered.
Believable characters in an unbelievable chain of events; step-by-step pacing never gets dull; an ending so satisfying, you may need a cigarette.
The copy is originally in Norwegian (so who knows what is lost in translation); Norwegian place names make it tough to visualize where certain scenes are.
Nemesis will not re-define the mystery sub-genre, but it reminds fans of just why such stories can be so darn entertaining. Recommended.