POLICE by Jo Nesbo

Book Quote:

“He was asleep there behind the door.

The guarded hospital room smelt of medicine and paint. The monitor beside him registered his heartbeats.

Isabelle Skoyen, the Councillor for Social Affairs at Oslo City Hall, and Mikael Bellman, the newly appointed Chief of Police, hoped they would never see him again.”

Book Review:

Review by Jana L. Perskie  (FEB 7, 2014)

Suspects abound and deceit, lies and corruption are the order of the day from everyone – criminals and cops – in Police, an enthralling follow-up to Jo Nesbo’s previous Harry Hole novel, Phantom.  Police  actually takes up where Phantom leaves off. And my question, for over a year, while waiting in angst for this book to be published is…”Is Harry Hole still alive?” Obviously he is…or this book would not have been written. But still…there was some doubt.

I must say that Jo Nesbo has become a familiar name on my favorite author list and I cannot quite pigeon-hole his work into the “mystery,” “police procedural or “crime” genres.” His books, with their well developed characters, exceptional and unusual plots defy, for me, any one single genre. Perhaps, “body of literature” would fit the bill… and I consider his work, his prose, to be literature.

Nesbo is a master of very complex plots, an expert at exploring human motivations, the choices people make and their consequences. He has a talent for taking the usual crime thriller trope and twisting it into deranged scenarios. Harry Hole defies authority. He is a self-made outcast within his own organization and is best left alone to do his job. He is more of an anti-hero than a hero. His romantic life is nil – he usually lives alone and likes it that way, and his definition of “justice” may differ from what is defined as the “LAW.” For me, Detective Hole embodies the classic character from American hard-boiled fiction…but more hardboiled. His attitude is conveyed through his detective’s self-dialogue describing to the reader what he is doing and feeling. He witnesses, on a daily basis, the violence of organized and non-organized crime that flourishes, while dealing with a legal system that has become as corrupt as the organized crime itself. Rendered cynical by this cycle of violence, this detective of hardboiled fiction is a classic antihero….that would be Harry on steroids.

If possible, I believe one gets the most from Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series by reading the books in order. This way one can observe how Harry and other characters develop or grow, and sometimes die. I would say especially that I would most definitely read Phantom before picking up Police. These two novels should be read in order. However, if sequential reading is not possible, do not be discouraged. Once one has completed the first few pages of any of his other novels, it is difficult to put the book down…no matter where it falls in the sequence.

As Police begins we find Harry in relatively good shape as compared to how we left him in Phantom. He’s off active duty in the police department where the stress and danger almost killed him. He is teaching at the police academy and much healthier and happier, if this is possible. He is back , for the moment, with Rakel, his longtime, sometime love, and her son, Oleg, whom he considers his own.

There is a new series of executions in Oslo. The killer seems to be duplicating murder cases previously solved by Harry; the victims are all police officers. There are no loose ends, no tracks, no evidence – only revenge with a capital “R.” The police officers are not just shot in the commission of a crime, but lured to the scene of former murders and killed in an imitation of the previous crime. The killer is promptly dubbed “The Police Killer” by the press. Again, these are crimes, murders, previously solved by Harry. And, can it be possible… Oslo’s Crime Squad actually misses their top crime solver? But Harry is not around. Therefore, Krimteknisk and Crime Squad must now team up to solve the murders of their own. So…what we have is a conglomeration of four of the best detectives on the Oslo police department, all of whom have been introduced as Harry Hole’s well trained partners and colleagues over the last few novels. Among them are forensics specialists Beate Lønn and Bjørn Holm, brilliant researcher Katrine Bratt, psychologist Ståle Aune – but not Harry Hole, the one detective in Oslo who has solved virtually every case that’s crossed his path. The new group of crime stoppers…or solvers…constantly wonder “what would Harry do here?” “What was it Harry used to say? Intuition is only the sum of many small but specific things the brain hasn’t managed to put a name to yet.” The only thing predictable about this book is its unpredictability. It’s almost as scary as it is surprising.

And, deep down Harry and the reader know that he misses his old job – the department and active investigations. When one is good at something, like solving horrific crimes, one doesn’t let go easily…or at least Harry doesn’t. As the murders start striking closer and closer to him and targeting his former colleagues, Harry is pulled back into the investigation. I mean, he solved the crimes the first time around…so why not the second? Because, Harry is an alcoholic. He has a taste for drugs. His girl friend’s son, Oleg, while on drugs, shot and nearly killed Harry. And Harry has promised Rakel, that he will not go back to the police force. BUT…he does have his own unique and effective way of investigating murders. Ways not always condoned by the police manual. Harry is in a bind. He can come back to the police and risk losing his girl friend and her son or stand by while police are systematically being murdered. With corruption running rampant at City Hall, a vicious rapist escaped from prison, and the shifty Chief of Police, Mikael Bellman, exercising control over the force, the team will do what it takes to draw Harry back and unravel the mystery before another officer becomes a target.

This is the tenth Harry Hole mystery, and, as usual, the reader turns the last page eager and impatient for the next novel. Police reads differently from other Oslo Sequence books. It is longer and more nuanced. As ever, Nesbo is a master of giving us a difficult puzzle to solve and a flawed but likeable main character to take us there.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 522 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (October 15, 2013)
REVIEWER: Jana L. Perskie
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


Stand-alone Novels:

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

February 7, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Literary, Mystery/Suspense, Sleuths Series

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