Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

by
A Harry Hole Mystery

Harper (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-165550-3 (0061655503)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-165550-0 (9780061655500)
Publication Date: January 2009
List Price: $25.99

Review: Oslo police detective Harry Hole investigates a series of bold bank robberies and the murder of an old flame (for which he appears to be the prime suspect) in Nemesis, the fourth mystery in this series by Jo Nesbo (but only the second to be published in the US).

Harry is barely holding on to his job with the police department. He's very good at what he does, but he also drinks too much. He's currently assigned to investigate a bank robbery in which the thief not only gets away with the cash, but kills a teller in cold blood because her manager took too long to give it to him. Everything was captured on the bank's security cameras, something the thief seems to use (somewhat ironically) to his advantage. Harry subsequently meets up with Anna, an old girlfriend; not exactly what he needs right now, but in a drunken stupor spends the night with her, awakening in his own apartment. She's later found dead, an apparent suicide but Harry thinks otherwise. It soon becomes clear that Anna's death is linked to his other investigation but every step Harry takes seems to complicate his case.

Nemesis is a strong plot-driven crime novel, and it's apparent the author is a master in crafting the sophisticated, interwoven plot threads that form the foundation for the book. It's really quite amazing and very cleverly accomplished. Little else stands out, however. Harry Hole is center stage most of the time, but he's not much different from the dozens of alcoholic (or recovering alcoholic) cops that have preceded him. And other than a few mentions of snow (or melting snow), there's scant attention paid to the setting. It could have been set in Canada or Russia as well as Norway.

Finally, Nemesis is often not all that easy to follow, and not only because of the intricate plot. Most series books typically don't rely too heavily on previous entries to provide background material, yet there seems to be a basic assumption here that the reader is familiar with not only the character of Harry Hole but also the environment in which he works, the people with whom he associates, and the circumstances that led to him being where he is today. To be sure, none of this information is strictly necessary to enjoy Nemesis but there's a sense that something is lacking, that the book isn't nearly as rich or deep or well-rounded as it could have been. Given that the book is nearly 500 pages in length, a few extra paragraphs here and there to fill in the gaps wouldn't have been excessive in the least.

Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing a copy of Nemesis for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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If you are interested in purchasing Nemesis from Amazon.com, please click the button to the right. Nemesis (Kindle edition) is also available. Learn more about the Kindle, Amazon's Wireless Reading Device.

Synopsis (from the publisher): Grainy closed-circuit television footage shows a man walking into an Oslo bank and putting a gun to a cashier's head. He tells the young woman to count to twenty-five. When the robber doesn't get his money in time, the cashier is executed, and two million Norwegian kroner disappear without a trace. Police Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case.

While Hole's girlfriend is away in Russia, an old flame decides to get in touch. Former girlfriend and struggling artist Anna Bethsen invites Hole to dinner, and he can't resist a visit. But the evening ends in an all too familiar way as Hole awakens with a thundering headache, a missing cell phone, and no memory of the past twelve hours. That same morning, Anna is found shot dead in her bed. Hole begins to receive threatening e-mails. Is someone trying to frame him for this unexplained death? Meanwhile, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery.

As the death toll continues to mount, Hole becomes a prime suspect in a criminal investigation led by his longtime adversary Tom Waaler and Waaler's vigilante police force. Racing from the cool, autumnal streets of Oslo to the steaming villages of Brazil, Hole is determined to absolve himself of suspicion by uncovering all the information needed to crack both cases. But the ever-threatening Waaler is not finished with his old archenemy quite yet.

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