The Redeemer: A Harry Hole Novel (6) (Harry Hole Series)
Man's compulsion to do what he considers good and right, even though it requires him to act in ways that society and the law consider morally and legally wrong, permeates this book on all levels, with several characters assuming this role of "Redeemer" in their actions throughout the novel. Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, in this fourth novel of the Harry Hole series to become available in English, introduces three seemingly disparate plot lines in this thriller set in Oslo--a hired assassin from Croatia is fulfilling contract killings in Europe and has just arrived in Oslo for his last job; the Salvation Army, its officers and soldiers, are trying to fulfill their mission by providing food, clothing, and shelter to those most in need of their help, no questions asked, and they are seeking some new leadership; and Harry Hole, an alcoholic police inspector, who is sometimes off-the-wagon, is still trying to find the Big Boss behind the gun-running and related crimes which brought down one of his fellow police inspectors in The Devil's Star, the previous novel in this series.
Murders link the three plot lines, which quickly begin to overlap. To add to the complexity (and sometimes confusion) of this very complex mystery, there are a number of characters who are similar. In the Salvation Army subplot, two brothers look almost identical, and both are in love with the same woman, though one of them may be a dangerous sadist. The woman, Thea, is also a member of the Salvation Army, and her brother Rikard is a major player. Another attractive young woman, the daughter of the Salvation Army Commander, is also involved in the romantic angles, and it is easy to mix up these characters, especially when their roles overlap.
The assassin who has come to Oslo has a characteristic called "hyperelasticity," which enables him to mimic with his facial structure, a number of different facial types, and descriptions of this person vary significantly when he commits a murder, raising questions about his true identity. In the third plot, Harry himself is still not exactly stable. Though he seems to be reconciled with the fact that his long-time love, Rakel, has written him off as an unacceptable suitor, Rakel's young son clearly still loves Harry, and Harry seems to be still pining for Rakel. Professionally, he must deal with an attack on one of his men.
Nesbo is a compelling writer, one who has completely mastered the art of creating suspense and propelling the action along. In this novel he does something new, however, creating short action scenes in which he does not always identify the main character, presenting information for the reader to process and hold in the back of his/her mind till another piece of the puzzle is revealed to connect with it. Harry Hole might ring a doorbell, for example, and in the immediate next scene, another person entirely will be about to answer the door. This is a clever technique for involving the reader, but it does sometimes create confusion by forcing the reader to backtrack to keep all the characters and their immediate stories straight. Eventually, the loose ends get tied up, but the extent to which the resolutions are realistic is an open question, and some readers may lose track of all the issues before the conclusion. Nesbo does reflect much of the atmosphere of Oslo and the attitudes of the police, as he has in the past, but overall he has a less broad sociological focus here. Exciting and atmospheric, the novel's scope seems to be narrower than in the previous novels.