Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer

What we thought: Over the Christmas period, I decided I was going to try a crime novel by an author previously unknown to me. I do this often, and if I can, I prefer to go back to book one and start the series in order. Despite the popularity of Nesbo's bestselling novel, The Snowman, the English speaking version of The Bat - although book one in the Hary Hole thriller series - was not published in English until 2012 when it was actually written in 1997 - so for UK fans of the author, this must have been quite odd at the time.

However, this was a strong introduction to the central character of Harry Hole. In The Bat, Harry travels from his native country to Australia to assist in the investigation of a Norwegian girl in Sydney. Nesbo has a very strong sense of place in this book, set in the sleazier areas of the city, and dealing with a colourful collection of underworld characters, really brought the story alive for me. Favourite characters in particular were Otto, a multi-layered transvestite, and Joseph, a fellow detective from an indigenous background who was fighting a battle with alcoholism.

In this novel, the author pulls no punches when describing Harry Hole's own battles with alcoholism, and I found the author's depiction of the lows his characters encounter both gritty and moving. There's something very real about many of the scenes, which even if we haven't been through similar things ourselves, we have no problem empathising with the character.

In terms of plot, the author has a real talent for the twists and turns we have come to expect in Noir crime fiction. There are many changes in direction, red herrings, dark humour and interesting research in the Aborigine culture - that added an extra dimension to a standard crime storyline.

And the ending, although dark and one of the more graphic of scenes, was a real page turner and brought the story to a satisfying conclusion.

I've bonded with Harry Hole, and despite his flaws, I like the character. And the biggest compliment I can pay him and the author, is that I've already downloaded book two.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: David Hewson, Karin Slaughter, Peter James.

Avoid if you don’t like: Nordic crime, Australia, serial killers and alcoholism.

Ideal accompaniments: Salted cod and ice cold lager.

Genre: Crime thriller

Available on Amazon

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