"The Bat", by Jo Nesbo

The Bat - Jo Nesbø

Book 1, in the Harry Hole mystery series

It is grand time, for the publisher to give Mr. Nesbo’s admirers a chance to see where the series all began. Going into the back catalogue they finally provided us with “The Bat” his debut novel. Most fans have meet Inspector Harry Hole in the previous novels so it will not be a surprise to see that Harry, the best known characters in contemporary crime fiction has stayed to same old self.

This is a fascinating book, filling the gaps in the protagonist biography. It all started in Sydney where he has come to observe and lend assistance on a high profile case, the murder of a young Norwegian woman. It wouldn't have made sense not to get involved in fact it would have made a very boring story. And so the plot has Harry delve into Sydney underbelly working alongside Aboriginal Detective Andrew Kensington. The indigenous culture features prominently and provides an interesting glimpse in the past wrongs committed against the people, at times the narrative sounds a bit too preachy for my taste but nonetheless is quite informative. 

The pacing started slowly, more a feeling of a travelogue at first but it moved to a brisk stroke mid-way the investigation while Harry must not only fight his own demons but also outwit a sadistic serial killer before he makes a mistake, a fatal error which will come to hunt him forever. Mr. Nesbo introduces an array of red-herrings, twists and violence, enough blood and thunder to have kept me turning pages although I admit wondering where the plot was leading. I needed to pay close attention for this moody and quite fragmented story that kept going back and forth between the murder investigation and Harry’s personal side and his past experiences. But everything is kept together by the many interesting characters and by their interactions. Harry has been well developed from the start, a realist that never forgets that his dark shadow is close by…..This is a great series not to miss. 

“The Bat” was awarded with the most prestigious crime writing award in Norway in 1997 as well as the premier crime writing award in Scandinavia in 1998.