The Redbreast: A Harry Hole Novel
by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlette;
Review by Verna Suit
Harper Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062068422
Date: 30 August 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Oslo Crime Squad detective Harry Hole is in trouble again. Assigned as a liaison officer for a Norwegian police detail covering the arrival of the US president, he shoots a Secret Service agent that he mistakes for an assassin. But it was an honest mistake, so as a cover-up he is promoted and transferred. Now, as a member of the Police Surveillance Agency, he becomes aware of a real assassination that's being planned. He just doesn't know by whom, when, or the target.
Harry Hole uncovers a plot to smuggle in a high-powered Marklin rifle, whose only likely use is as an assassin's weapon. The reader meets the would-be assassin himself early on. He's an old man dying of cancer and known as Uriah, who is obsessed with events in World War II. Numerous flashbacks portray life in the Eastern Front trenches among Norwegians who volunteered to fight for Hitler to keep the Russians from invading Norway. Uriah appears to have been one of these Norwegian "traitors", who survived the war and now many years later wants to avenge some wrong. But he could be any of a number of men. Who Uriah really is and who he wants to kill, and why, remains a mystery until the book's last pages.
The story alternates between the present, WWII battlefields, and wartime Vienna, delivering a much-needed history lesson concerning Norway's involvement in the war. Many of the current-day sections focus on Harry himself, an anguished, recovering alcoholic who manages to hang onto his job because he's a good detective. When someone close to him dies in an attack that may be related to his case, Harry's determination to find and stop Uriah intensifies.
The Redbreast tells a gripping, fascinating story and paints a vivid picture of both past and present day Norway. As readers, we periodically think we have solved the mystery and know who Uriah is, but eventually discover that we don't know anything. Even at over 550 pages, The Redbreast becomes a can't-put-down book.
Note: This book is a translation into English by Don Bartlette