four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
46-May-June-2010
By: 
Jo Nesbo
user_rating: 
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A-The Devils StarNorwegian Jo Nesbø has penned eight novels in the Harry Hole series, including Redbreast and Nemesis. The Devil's Star was first published in Norway in 2003.

The Story: In the dead of summer, a murder spree rocks Oslo. The killer leaves behind pentagrams, "the devil's star," to taunt his pursuers, and veteran detective Harry Hole--hopelessly alcoholic, brilliant, determined, loving but distant--immerses himself in the case. But Hole has more than a serial killer to worry about. He thinks his police supervisor, Tom Waaler, is both a murderer and an arms dealer. And despite his best intentions, Hole allows his personal life to spin out of control and his nightmares to spill over into the light of day. Maybe things will take a turn for the better when the detective has a rare insight, "a gift, theft, an undeserved favor from an angel."
HarperCollins. 464 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780061133978

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"Nesbø is a celebrated Norwegian noir writer, a member of the current class of superlative Scandinavians showing the rest of the world how to write a proper mystery. This one, a very good one, stars his lead figure, detective inspector Harry Hole, alcoholic and existential agonizer." John Timpane

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"I suspect Mr. Nesbø practiced literary due diligence before turning author because he's spotted all the trends in thrillers and served them up in The Devil's Star, a tight, suspenseful mystery. ... While the parts of The Devil's Star are familiar, the whole is greater than its parts." Michael Helfand

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The Devil's Star is a big, ambitious, wildly readable story that pits the protagonist against a serial killer and an enemy within the Oslo police department. ... It's a complex plot, one that will have you scratching your head from time to time, trying to remember who did what to whom." Patrick Anderson

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Although a far less ambitious book, [Nesbø's earlier novel] Nemesis offered some serious thoughts on the efficacy and value of revenge in a modern society. For all its narrative intricacy, The Devil's Star explores no comparable political or ethical issues, either in its by-the-book hunt for the serial killer or in its hero's morbid obsession with his own nightmares." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Maybe it's something in the icy water. Along with Åke Edwardson (Sweden), Karin Fossum (Norway), Stieg Larsson (Sweden), and Henning Mankel (Sweden), Jo Nesbø is one of a growing number of Scandinavian crime writers who have burst with great fanfare onto the international scene in the last few years. Much of the action in The Devil's Star will be familiar to aficionados, though the author's characters and atmosphere make clear why Nesbø's star is on the rise in America (he's already wildly popular in Europe). Crime readers who don't yet know Nesbø will embrace the author, his tormented Harry Hole (comparisons have been made to Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch), and the complex, noirish Norway hiding beneath the placid surface.

The Harry Hole Series

The title of the first book in the series is, in English, The Bat Man, but it has not been translated into English. The Redbreast and Nemesis are available in the United States and are the third and fourth books, respectively, in the series. The Devil's Snare comes next, followed by The Redeemer and The Snowman, which is just now being published in the United Kingdom.