Anthony McIntyre reviews the fourth book in the Harry Hole series.

During the course of a robbery a teller, Stine Grette, is shot dead in a bank in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. There seemed no apparent reason. She was compliant with the robber, if a bit tardy, who gave her 25 seconds to do what he wanted but after 31 seconds killed her. Six seconds was hardly a sufficient reason to kill the teller so there had to be something else. Other bank robberies would go on but no one dies – then again the tellers met the 25 second demand. So …

Nemesis sets the stage on which Beate Lønn makes her first appearance, although as ever Harry Hole is the principal. She fills the vacuum caused by the hasty exit from the scene of an earlier partner of Harry’s. Her father, a cop, like the victim at the start of Nemesis, had been slain by a bank robber. She has an excellent, deeply unusual, memory for faces. Once registered, she is the consummate face recognition software, ahead of the field. Her viewing of a video recording of the bank robbery brings out what others missed.

By contrast with hers, Hole’s memory is not always so good, a memory hole - pardon a pun. It is particularly bad when he has been on the drink. It comes to haunt him, putting him in the frame for a killing that took place while his girlfriend is in Russia with her son Oleg, leaving him isolated and without an alibi that would hold up too well. Harry’s investigative instinct causes him to disregard the police view of suicide.

Hole meets up with Anna Bethsen, a gypsy artist with influential relatives who have an ability and reach beyond the everyday. The mysterious Naskol is one. A master tactician, even from the bowels of a prison complex, his assistance always comes with a price.

Hole is perturbed at an incident involving Anna. He has enemies in the Oslo police force and has a sense that they are trying to use the incident with Anna to undermine him.

Tom Waller moves on his opportunity. A nemesis from Redbreast, Hole neither likes nor trusts him but Waller is no wally and he is much too good a detective to let go off a bone easily. Let Hole chase ghosts if he wishes.

The narrative shifts to Brazil. For some reason Hole abroad is just not as atmospheric as Hole at Home. Take the Norwegian out of Norway and something of the Norwegian is taken out of him. Perhaps this is why the first two books, based in Australia and Thailand, were not translated until after later novels set in Norway had made the language leap.

Like many Nesbo works, the plot is brilliant if never uncomplicated. The reader is led through a labyrinth and holds onto the line because they reach a point when they realise that Nesbo alone, or Harry Hole for that matter, can lead them to the other side.

By now the regular reader knows the drill – Hole has a serious drink problem but when off it his brain flips back on its feet and all problems, even the booze albeit until the next time, can be solved. His mind is a force of nature, the energy irrepressible as he finds his way out of whatever corner he is painted into or trap ensnaring him. Some Harry aficionados took the view that this was a disappointing book and a poor follow-on from Redbreast. Not so - the ring craft might have been different but it still landed the big punch.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill. Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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