Review: Jo Nesbo – Cockroaches

For those of us who were early readers of Nesbo’s books, the order in which they were translated into English was Jo Nesbo - Cockroachesproblematic. Hole had clearly spent time in both Australia and Thailand working on cases that had impacted on his professional and personal life. But we, as readers, had no idea of the substance of these investigations. The Australian conundrum was finally solved last year with the publication of Nesbo’s first book The Bat which, confusingly, introduced us to a sober Harry Hole. Nesbo’s second book, Cockroaches, has also recently been translated and, finally, we discover what actually happened during Harry’s Thai sojourn.

Harry Hole, off the Jim Beam but killing himself with beer, is sent by his boss to Thailand to investigate the death of the Norwegian ambassador in a motel room. Following a recent scandal involving a prominent Norweigian citizen and child pornography, the governments of both Norway and Thailand are keen to avoid any scandal. Harry discovers that the death consists of layers of deception that need unravelling in the Thai heat. We get a glimpse into the excesses of expat life, the seedy underbelly of prostitutes plying their trade and a police force trying to solve a crime under the scrutiny of those wanting to protect their political positions.

Although only Nesbo’s second book, this is a much more assured narrative than The Bat. We see Hole using his intuition and investigative skills to solve a case, while wrestling with his demons from the past. The fact that he’s not always successful in either case adds an air of vulnerability to the character and uncertainty for the reader as to how many victims we can expect until the plot is resolved. The Thai setting is a familiar one for crime readers although we also get a fair bit of the history of the country which I thought was well done. The Bat was criticised by some Australian readers for its incorrect portrayal of the Aboriginal past. I wonder how successful Nesbo was also at accurately depicting the history of the sex trade in Thaliand but it certainly made interesting reading.

I’m sure that Nesbo’s existing fans will enjoy this book. For me, it was one of the most engaging ones that he’s written although I can never make up my mind if his plot’s are deceptively simple or fiendishly complicated. I suppose the fact I can’t decide is a credit to the writer.

Thanks to Vintage for me review copy. The translation was by Don Bartlett.

22 thoughts on “Review: Jo Nesbo – Cockroaches

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – It’s not just Nesbø. There are several authors (Anne Holt and Helene Tursten are just two that come to my mind right now) whose work hasn’t been translated in order. That really does make it harder for readers to follow the story arcs and get a sense of the characters. That said, I’m very glad you enjoyed this one. I wonder if it affects the way you now think about the later novels.


  2. I didn’t know this one had been translated yet! Something else to look forward to reading in 2014, then. The order of translation is a definite issue – as Margot says, the Anne Holt series is another one that I have been frustrated by and would love to have read them in the right order.


  3. As usual, I am still just at the “starting point” with this series. I read Redbreast when it was the earliest one in the series available. Now I have Nemesis and Devil’s Star and The Bat and I think I will read them in that order. You and other reviewers are so positive about this series that I am sure I will find good things in each book. But I am keeping in mind the possibilities of inaccuracies of portrayal in The Bat, as I have read those criticisms too.


  4. Thanks for this – I think I’d better check this one out! I wrestle with Nesbrø quite a bit, because I’m a huge fan of Scandi thrillers, I should love him, but for some reason I can never quite put my finger on, I just can’t get into his books and have to force myself through. Maybe it is because I’ve only read later books, when Hole is already lost that I find myself thinking “if you don’t care, why should I?” so perhaps this earlier one will finally show me the light – hope so!


    1. Thanks for the comment, Claire. I don’t think this book is that different in style from the others, so maybe this won’t be for you. I do know what you mean. I have some authors too that I just can’t seem to get into.


  5. Thank you so much for this fantastic review! ( I arrived here via Forestwoodfolkart’s reblog)
    I haven’t started the Nesbo books because I’m a huge sticker for reading series in order. Part of the joy of “series” reading (for me at least) is learning and developing along with the main characters; I just can’t jump into the middle of a series and enjoy a series book as a stand-alone!
    Anyway, I’m thrilled I can finally delve into the life and world of Harry Hole! Thank you!


    1. Hi Karen. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m about to check out your site. I love series too although my New Year’s resolution is to read more standalones too.


  6. Hi, Sarah,
    Such an interesting post! As it happens I’m in the midst of The Bat at the moment. I’m enjoying the Australian summer, though Harry finds it much too warm for his Nordic disposition. I’ll make sure I read Cockroaches next. Looking forward!


  7. Pingback: The Best of January’s Reading | crimepieces

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.