Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

The publishers in the English speaking world are trying to promote Jo Nesbo, for obvious reasons, as the next Stieg Larsson. Well, that is, to say the least, ironic since the former came on the scene ten years earlier than the latter.
     Anyway, let’s just skip that and focus on the novel at hand. The main protagonist in The Devil's Star is Harry Hole, an alcoholic detective who’s spent most of his adult life making one mistake after the other. Now, exactly because of his intoxication he seems to be at the twilight of his career. Even though he’s a pretty good detective and under the protection of his boss, sooner or later he’ll have to go, since no one can any longer stand him.
     Before he does that, however, he has to solve a case, which was virtually dropped on his lap right in the middle of summer, when lots of members of the police force are away on holiday. A woman is found dead in a bathtub, under mysterious circumstances. One of her fingers has been cut off, while behind of one of her eyelids an investigator finds a tiny red five-pointed diamond – the devil’s star. The killer, other than that, has left no clues behind. Harry visits the scene of the crime, takes a long look at everything and makes mental notes, exchanges words with one of his enemies inside the force, someone who thinks that he’s a dirty cop, and leaves; the pub is waiting.
     As time goes by the bodies start piling up and now Harry not only has to do all he can to find the killer as soon as possible, but also fight his inner demons and make peace with himself. He feels guilty for who he is, as he finally comes to admit that alcohol is not the solution to his problems, and to realize that he has to do everything that is humanly possible to change, even if that means that he has to break a deal with the man he considers his personal devil. He feels really tired. He’s sick of looking at dead bodies now and again and crossing swords with the windmills of the world out there. He wants to get a new job, do something different, get a life for a Christ’s sake; before he hits rock bottom.
     The author paints a detailed portrait of his hero. He gives us a man who’s tough and tender at the same time; strong headed and resilient; utterly tired, but with bursts of energy; not someone that’s easy to cope with. However, he does provide him with some good friends, who are willing to stand by his side at any given moment, under any circumstances, so in the end, one can say, that for him there’s hope after all.
     One can read this book in one sitting, just like every crime novel that respects itself. It is not really action-packed but there are a lot twists and turns, and the plot manages to keep the reader’s interest at a high from start to finish, as almost nothing turns out to be as it seems. The end comes with a bang, but leaves some questions unanswered, some mysteries unsolved. Maybe Harry has to stay just where he is, for the time being, and put things completely right; maybe not.
     Anyway, this is a very good thriller, with a great plot and a deeply troubled, yet sympathetic hero, and it’s certainly worth to be read by any crime fiction aficionado.

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