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The Redbreast - Review

I can not confirm if I am just making this up in my own head or not, but a poll conducted in Norway ranked this the best crime novel of all time! Now a quick search on the Googler should confirm or repudiate this story. I like the idea of living under this illusion, so I have not gone back to check the accuracy of this statement. The idea that I have read the best that Norwegian Crime Fiction has to offer sets up a tantalizing criteria.

Collaboration is a an ugly word in the history of WWII, particularly if the you sided with the Germans. I am not capable of providing the dear readers of this humble blog with a lucid history of Norway in WWII, but I think it is enough to say that Norway has a troubling history in regards to their Nazi occupation.

Jo Nesbo both embraces and keeps this history at an arms length. Our villain is a soldier of that war who fought with the Germans, but he is also a pitiably character who could not control many of the events he played apart in. He is a marionette of the German machine and in the end his own fractured mind.

Harry Hole is Nesbo's gruff and grumpy hero. A well drawn character that certainly is able to pull you into his world. There is a particular passage in the book that plays out exclusively through phone messages left on an answer machine. It is devastating way to expose Harry's guilt and sorrow.

The central mystery is Hole's discovery that a black market rifle has been purchased. But this is no ordinary rifle as Hole instructs the reader, this weapon is favored by hunters for exclusively human targets. The story plays out well even though the opening passages are compromised by a few too many capricious flashbacks and flash forwards. The ending is undermined as well by interspersing the assassin's diary into the climatic action of the book. There is fascinating detail in these parts. However, the reader does little to earn this information, and because of it the impact of the assassins story is lessened.

I think the good outweighs the bad in this book, primarily because the good is really terrific. I would have no trouble recommending this book to anyone as an effective blend of historical and police procedural crime fiction.


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