Harry Hole is drunk again. While that is not news to those familiar with the staggering Oslo detective, it would be deeply disappointing for fans were it to cost him his job. An entirely dry Harry Hole of course would be a much less compelling character, his magnetism stripped away. It is the flaws that make it all work, adding to the grit while honing the suspense: Harry is unpredictable apart from the one certainty – that he will hit the bottle again. Well, there are two - he will also solve any murder case that comes before his eyes, rather than across his desk. Harry is not the type of cop who is cut out for desk work. When he takes to the chair he likes it placed in his local in front of whatever culinary special is on offer, and where he could have "a drink, one drink, a moment without torment."
If Harry hated pubs they were only "theme pubs, Irish pubs, topless pubs. novelty pubs or, worst of all, celebrity pubs, where the walls were lined with photographs of regular customers of some notoriety."
Bjarne Moller has reached the end of his tether and fired Harry. The long suffering superior grew tired of acting as a guardian angel for "the lone wolf, the drunk, the department's enfant terrible". Not so much saved by the bell as the star, he evades the sack when at the last minute he is called back to work on a fresh Oslo murder case. It is summer, many cops are on holiday including the chief who would sign his termination of contract but had not yet got to the paperwork sent by Moller. Harry avoided the drop but is a long way from becoming disentangled from the the noose that sits loosely, for now, around his neck.
A return to the land of the living is not entirely without problems as it reminds Harry too much of the dead, in particular a murdered colleague he had worked closely with. The new investigation puts him close to the person he suspects of being behind his fellow cop’s death. While avoiding the sack he misses being in the sack with Rakel who has pulled away from him, taking her son Oleg with her. Harry and the boy had formed a comforting bond, so when it dissolves it hurts.
The new investigation is kickstarted by the discovery of the body of a young woman in her bathroom. Camilla Loen is 23 and one of her fingers had been hacked off: not a macabre souvenir but more for the purposes of posting to the cops. Another feature was the insertion beneath the eyelid of a stud diamond in the shape of a star with five points. Five days later a stage actress is reported missing. When one of her fingers arrives at the National Crime Investigation Service, more than just the cops take notice. Then a third victim is found in her place of work. The star again. A sadistic serial killer is on the go and Harry is the one detective with experience of successfully confronting the phenomenon.
Harry is to work with Tom Waller but readers familiar with the history of both men will know why Harry neither likes nor trusts Waller, the origins of which go back to Redbreast. If Harry was considered good at the job, it was in Waller that he found his equal and whose philosophy of policing was summed up as:
that's how we deal with the human detritus we're surrounded by. We don't clean it up, we don't throw it away, we just move it around a little. And we don't see that when the house is a stinking rat infested hole, it's too late. Just look at other countries where criminality has a firm foothold ... That's where we come in, Harry. We take the responsibility. We see it as the sanitation job that society dare not take on.
Because so much in the book has a past story it is best to read the books in sequence. While the fifth in the Hole compendium it is the third located in Norway so the new reader might get away with giving the first two a miss. But there is no compelling reason to do such, just that the storyline of this one will not be affected if the first two are skipped.
The Devil’s Star is aptly positioned in the timeline of Harry Hole books. The five points of the star are laden with symbolism and teasers. The novel is the fifth in the series. For those who prefer their Scandinoir in cold climes, The Devil's Star might throw them a bit. Oslo bakes as the summer sun grips it. Snow rather than sun creates the mood music for Scandinavian crime fiction.
Still, a five star read.
Jo Nesbo, The Devil's Star. Publisher @ Harper. ASIN: B014TAGP00
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