Review: The Batman by Jo Nesbø

Book info:
Format: pdf e-book
Genre: detective novel
Target audience: adults
Once again I have a chance to review a book which, although not exactly new, somehow hasn’t been translated into English yet. I really wonder why. As far as I know (courtesy of of course) it is a beginning of a series featuring the same hero (Harry Hole). Other parts have been translated and published but the first and the second novel (The Cockroaches) – no. By the way  when The Batman was published in Norway in 1997 it became an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson) so it wasn’t a bad debut, quite the opposite in fact. It’s earmarked to be published this year (hey, I am anticipating a trend I suppose – go figure!) but somehow it was omitted previously.
A thirtyish Norvegian policeman, Harry Hole,  is sent to Australia to help investigating a murder of a Norvegian woman and a tv starlet, Inger Holder, who used to work in a Sydney bar. Australia is not a country Harry imagined to be. He meets his very colourful local counterparts, especially one Andrew Kensington, and learns plenty about the myths and shameful history of Aborigines, the local inhabitants of that continent. Is it pertaining to the murder investigation? Somehow it is.
It seems the murder of Inger was a part of a whole series of similar crimes – strangling and raping of young, blond, single women, often foreigners. Why only a complete outsider saw and recognized that fact? How much murders will it take until the police manage to find the perpetrator?
What I liked:
It was a very interesting book – logical but also surprising. Not that it didn’t follow a well-known pattern of crime stories but the author managed to lead me astray several times with cleverly hidden clues and bright, big red herring swimming to and fro near the surface. I haven’t been entertained so much since my last Agatha Christie novel and this lady, say what you might, could complicate a multiple murder story and outwit her readers splendidly.
Of course reading The Batman (no, I am not saying why such a title, find out on your own) Dame Agatha would blush several times. It is a very contemporary book; well, relatively contemporary – the movies Harry speaks about are such that you can easily notice the relentless passage of time. Still it aged well – I bet plenty of young people, footloose and fancy-free, who are taking a year off in order to go abroad, live carefree and have fun in the sun would recognize friendly souls in their slightly older counterparts shown here, working in Australian bars, posing for a photo before the famous Melbourne Opera House and crowding Bondi beach in the evenings.
The main character is definitely a man who likes living dangerously. He has his own demons to defeat as he is an alcoholic; sometimes he wins sometimes he loses spectacularly, falling into an endless spiral of drinking and bearing the consequences. Overall a very interesting main lead, somebody very far away from prim and proper Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. Still, he shares their brains and the passion of solving puzzles no matter how much it might cost.
Finally let me say that I liked very much the way the author constructed and presented the main baddie. I can’t say a lot in order not to spoil you but believe me, it won me over.
What I didn’t like:
Now I will have to continue that series. I got addicted instantly.
Final verdict:
Yes, I recommend this book and I hope the rest of the series will be as good as the first one. You can read it as a stand-alone btw but after finishing I am sure you will want another part even without one ugly cliffhanger urging you to do so. Consider yourself warned – Harry Hole is addictive.
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2 Responses to Review: The Batman by Jo Nesbø

  1. Melissa says:

    Pity the publishers didn't have an Australian editor check the translation. There were quite a few clunkers, which will detract from an otherwise good read for Australians. (By the way, the Opera House is in Sydney, not Melbourne).

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