It is deep wintertime in Oslo, the ideal setting for Scandinavian crime fiction. The atmospheric vibrancy of the snow that imbues a novel with climatic chill renders the mortgage paid in full. Permanency of residence is thereby secured for it deep in the banks of memory. Think a good Scandinavian crime thriller, think snow. None better than Ms Smila, but that is for another day.
It is an auspicious point to attempt a review, having last evening just finished watching DNA, a reasonable Danish-based eight part crime drama, paced perfectly to end as the last droplet of wine vanished from the goblet. Were it not for that, Redeemer would have waited a while longer for reviewer's redemption. Not because of any quality deficiency - Nesbo via Hole makes for gold standard Scandinoir. There is simply always other things to be getting on with. But once the mood music places the tune firmly in your head, it stays firmly in place until loosened with the lubricant of ink.
I don't recall other novels where the Salvation Army centrally featured. Unlike the violent armies the world has been all too familiar with, their mission is the saving of souls, even if it is akin to chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A shooting takes place at one of its Christmas events in downtown Oslo. When silence resumes and the gun smoke evaporates a senior officer in the Sally Ann lies dead, and Harry Hole is back in business. His skills will be needed. An unmasked killer has successfully plied his trade, yet none in the crowd of onlookers can describe a face.
A writer in search of hypocrisy as a theme need look no further than religion. It abounds in the world of fiction and without, presenting itself as an easy target largely because of the size of its mouth in contrast to the minimum amount of space the brain occupies. Long on piety, short on practice, bible bashers are a magnet for sceptics. Add child rape and embezzlement to the mix and the spectacle of a feeding frenzy is soon hawking its wares. When the question was put to him in conversation with one of the elders if he was a Christian, Harry’s terse response was “No. I’m a detective. I believe in proof.” Religion never much bothers itself with anything like proof. Mark Twain was on the money with his observation that faith is believing what you know ain’t so. Harry Hole senses from the outset that there is a lot which ain't so and with typical singlemindedness he is determined to bring proof to it.
The alcohol that Hole has managed to consume, in particular the Jack Daniels, seems to have gone for his liver rather than his brain. His acute investigative skills remain unimpaired no matter how often he stumbles off on a bourbon journey with Jack.
A young Croatian man earned his spurs during the civil war that ravished Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. He became a sort of moving spirit amongst the fierce fighters of Zagreb resisting the Serbs, where he became known affectionately amongst Croat fighters as "little Redeemer." In that line of work there is always much that needs redeeming. Given the skillset the trajectory is pretty uncomplicated. Croatia and Norway, it is a matter of joining the bloodstained dots.
At work Harry straddles a time of change. His boss is going. Bjarne Moller was often the only thing standing between Harry and the sack. But Harry has exhibited enough sobriety that Gunnar Hagen, the new superior, feels no reason to show him the door. Yet. Before Moller departs for the wilderness, Hole realises something odd about the gift his retiring boss gave him as a parting gift. An expensive watch suggests that there is something worth the watching. Suspicion is ingrained in his police psyche, at one point leading him to reflect that it is not possible to be a cop for twelve years without becoming infected with a virus of contempt for humanity. It sort of goes with the turf. He was not convinced that crime paid, just that it repeats itself.
Nesbo never lays out an easy plot. There is always a temptation at the end to retrace the steps and unravel the threads. Complex and labyrinthine, all rivers nevertheless lead to the sea where the net of Harry Hole invariably snares the perp. There is a slight difference here. Zagreb is far removed from Oslo.
Jo Nesbo, 2016, The Redeemer. Vintage. ISBN-13 : 978-1784703172
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