"But this is a people robbed and plundered; All of them are snared in holes, And they are hidden in prison houses; They are for prey, and no one delivers; For plunder, and no one says, 'Restore!'" -- Isaiah 42:22 (NKJV)
If you are like me, you've been reading translations of Harry Hole novels for some time. Those references to solving crime in Australia have probably both baffled and intrigued you. Well, you can find out what it was all about by reading The Bat, the first Harry Hole novel.
If you haven't been reading the Harry Hole books, then you have a great many treats ahead of you. I think you'll like the series best if you read the books chronologically by beginning with The Bat. While it's certainly not the best book in the series, it's a solid foundation for understanding and more greatly appreciating the later books.
Harry in Australia is like an aardvark at a black tie dinner: he doesn't really fit there. Nevertheless, he feels called to find a cruel killer who has stolen a young life in a most violent and degrading way. While he's supposed to be there just so show the Norwegian flag, Harry takes as active a role as he would have at home.
He quickly figures out that there's something very strange going on, but it's a big puzzle. In fact, Jo Nesbo clearly wrote this book to be jointly appealing for its flawed hero, our Harry, and its unusual mystery. Of the two, Harry is more appealing to me than the mystery. Solving the murder feels a bit too contrived.
While there are lots of references to sights and places in Australia, the book doesn't feel fully placed there. Don't pick up the book to see if it reminds you of all your good times in Sydney. It won't.
Nevertheless, there's a charm to a novel where readers are treated as though they had a mind, such that the story jumps ahead in rapid ways to action sequences in ways that require filling in the blanks. I like to do that. If you don't, you won't like the book as much as I did.
Some of the action sequences are quite interesting in their conceptions and descriptions. Good going, Jo!
The book has some startlingly original characters in it in terms of their backgrounds and preferences. I found that these details gave the story an edge that I liked.
There's a deep irony in the book that makes the book more appealing, as well. If you don't care for irony, you'll just think the book is too long.
Well, it could have been edited down to good effect by about 15 to 20 percent. There are loose sections that don't advance much of anything.
But don't miss it. Harry Hole is a piece of work, and you need to see this part!