Review: Jo Nesbo – Police

PoliceI only keep a watching eye on the internet search terms that bring readers to my blog. However I couldn’t help noticing the amount of traffic that came to my review of Jo Nesbo’s Phantom with the question ‘Is Harry Hole dead?’ Phantom ended with Hole lying bleeding to death on the floor in a drug addict’s apartment. It looked like it was the end for the detective and would have provided a fitting finale for the series. However, Hole is back in Police with the promise of a new direction for future books.

A serial killer is murdering police by luring them to the scenes of their unsolved crimes. The Oslo police force, led by Mikael Bellman, are coming under increasing political pressure to solve the case but the killer leaves no DNA traces at the scene and is able to entice his victims with apparent ease to their deaths. In desperation the investigating team turn to Harry Hole, sober once more and teaching at a university. Although initially refusing to take on the case, the death of a close former colleague draws him into the path of the serial killer.

Police is a huge book, around 500 pages long, but it contains much that is enjoyable about Nesbo. It provides a taut and edgy mystery with return of some characters from earlier books such as forensics expert Beate Lonne and psychologist Stale Aune. Nesbo has previously said that he could have finished his series with this which is his tenth book. And in many respects Police has a fin-de-sciecle feel to it with the resolution of a number of strands of earlier novels. But, as we would expect from Nesbo, the book has an edge to it. There is more explicit sex in Police than previous books and although the violence is toned down slightly there is a shocking murder half way through the narrative. Nesbo is excellent at making the murders appear both realistic and slightly fantastic and things are no different here.

Hole is sober throughout and I actually prefer the alcohol free character with his ever-present demons. He doesn’t appear until at least half way through the story and its testament to the power of the character that the story doesn’t seem to get going properly until Hole’s appearance. There’s a fairly irritating plot strand early on involving an obsessive student. On one hand it seems entirely in keeping with Hole’s character that he is attractive to his female students but is brusque in his refusal sleep with the girl. However the whole scenario had an element of male fantasy about it and the girl appears both vulnerable and psychotic.

It’s difficult to see how the series will develop with a newly sober and settled Harry. There are hints at demons that refuse to disappear which may be a clue to future books. Nesbo is now at that difficult stage with a series that is about to enter its ‘teens’. Fingers crossed that he manages to keep up the quality.

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26 thoughts on “Review: Jo Nesbo – Police

  1. A sober detective! That’s almost genre-busting on its own… 😉 I’m now two behind in this series (and haven’t read the Australian first one yet either, but I hate breaking a series order). I think I read the others too quickly and needed a break. I like your point about the slightly fantastic nature of his murders – that is such an interesting quirk, I thought (esp. in The Snowman).

  2. Sarah – It will indeed be interesting to see what happens next with Harry. I have the feeling that Nesbø will be able to surprise us though; he’s good that way. I’m glad this one lives up to Nesbø’s high standards for you, despite that plot thread. I know that sort of thing happens plenty in real life, but it’s got to be done very well for me to ‘buy’ it in a novel.

  3. Sarah, thanks for another review of a Jo Nesbo novel. How popular is he! I have read quite a few reviews of his books on blogs alone and the reviews have said mostly nice things about him and his sleuth.

  4. I’m told from a friend who recently went to a signing that there will be at least two more books in the series. I’ll take a sober Harry Hole. I really enjoyed this novel as well.

  5. Like many authors I am reading now, I have only read one Harry Hole novel (The Redbreast). I liked it a lot and especially because of the flashbacks to World War II. I know the others in the series are not like that but I still expect to like them. I have three of the books: Nemesis, The Devil’s Star, and The Bat. Not sure if I will read The Bat before or after the other two.

  6. Good review. I’ve only read ‘The Snowman’, which I enjoyed a great deal; and I’m sure I’ll be reading more Nesbo in the future. This one in particular sounds great (and isn’t ‘Police’ a simple, yet terrific title?), and I like the idea of Hole being separate from, but still involved with, the detectives. I’ll get to it – one of these days…

  7. I have read two books with Harry Hole, very entertaining, especially Nemesis. I don’t even know which books to read, as I’m reading slowly these days and have huge TBR piles, borrowed and library books — and an even bigger TBR list. With lots of books being published this fall by favorite authors, like Indridason, Paretsky, Mina, Camilleri and so many more, I just can’t keep up.
    So I have to choose a few of Harry’s cases. Any suggestions about which to select?
    This one sounds good, although I could happily skil the worst violence.

    • Thanks Kathy. I haven’t got around to the Indridason yet either although I’m determined to by the time I go to Iceland in November. I know what you mean by that TBR pile.

  8. Great review Sarah, I’ve bought it but saving until my next holiday. I wanted to see him talk at Waterstones (Manchester) but was unfortunately away that weekend. Excellent series but I’m curious how Nesbo will turn round that so downbeat ending of Phantom!

    • Well the good thing about Nesbo is that you can read him in any order so you could just pick one up and give it a try. Not sure how much clothes stuff you’ll get though.

  9. Pingback: a belated roundup of reviews and news | Scandinavian Crime Fiction

  10. Pingback: Review: Police, by Jo Nesbø | The Game's Afoot

  11. After about 50 pages I had to give up.I just could not follow the story. Glad I only paid 30p for it.Not
    worth much more.

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