Book Quote:

“Harry had felt the gnawing ache for alcohol from the moment he woke up that morning. First as an instinctive physical craving, then as a panic-stricken fear because he had put a distance between himself and his medicine by not taking is hip flask or any money with him to work. Now the ache was entering a new phase in which it was both a wholly physical pain and a feeling of blank terror that he would be torn to pieces.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (FEB 24, 2010)

In Jo Nesbø’s The Devil’s Star, Harry Hole is an alcoholic who will be lucky to reach his fortieth birthday. His job as an inspector in Oslo Police Headquarters is hanging by a thread. He would not have a position at all if his supervisor, Crime Squad Chief Inspector Bjarne Møller, did not feel sorry for him, especially since he knows what a terrific detective Harry is when he manages to stay sober. Harry’s self-loathing is deepened by regret over his crumbling relationship with his lover, Rakel. He is all too aware that he cannot offer Rakel the stability and security that she and her young son, Oleg, need and deserve.

It is summer in Oslo, and the city is in the grip of a debilitating heat wave. In addition, the police force is working with a skeleton crew since so many people are away on vacation. When a fresh homicide falls into Møller’s lap, he calls Beate Lønn, a forensics whiz and a straight arrow who practically lives in the lab and is blessed with a photographic memory. Next, he contacts Inspector Tom Waaler, a rising star who is handsome, self-confident, and respected by everyone in the department. Møller hesitates before telephoning Harry Hole, “the lone wolf…the department’s enfant terrible.”

Harry is still reeling from the death of his colleague, Ellen Gjelten. Although Ellen’s case is closed, Harry is obsessed and will not let it rest; he has some disturbing theories about what really happened to her. He spends hours pursuing leads that turn out to be dead ends. Out of frustration, he goes on a binge and Bjame covers for Harry by placing him on leave. However, Harry’s boss cannot protect him indefinitely.

Circumstances bring Waaler, Hole, and Lønn together on a strange case of a serial killer who seems to be fixated on pentagrams, “devil’s stars.” The perpetrator appears to pick his victims randomly and his motive is unclear. As the killings continue, the police remain baffled. Harry, who gradually emerges from his alcoholic haze, uses his keen insight and out-of-the box thinking to shed some light on this murky investigation. As he does so, he butts heads not only with a cold-blooded psychopath but also with a sworn enemy who has a great deal to lose if Harry succeeds in unmasking him.

Although Harry is something of a stereotype (the brilliant cop who needs a big case to give him an excuse to go on the wagon), he is likeable, honest, and compassionate. Unsurprisingly in a book that exceeds four-hundred and fifty pages, the mystery is complex, with red herrings galore, clues scattered throughout to tantalize the reader, and of course, a climactic and violent final confrontation. Although The Devil’s Star is far from realistic and breaks little new ground in a well-worn genre, it is evocative and suspenseful, with detailed and vivid descriptive writing and a fascinating look at the minutiae of forensics, interrogation, and surveillance. Nesbø’s characters are varied and intriguing, there is plenty of action to hold the reader’s interest, and the twists and turns keep us guessing, even after we think that the crime is solved. Aficionados of novels that feature a talented cop who lives on the edge, a sadistic and devilishly clever serial killer, and a plot that teases and surprises us until the truth is finally revealed, will find much to like in this multi-layered thriller.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 422 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper (March 9, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


Stand-alone Novels:

  • Headhunters (2008)
  • The Son (May 2014)

March 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Norway, Psychological Suspense, Sleuths Series, y Award Winning Author

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