I 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.