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Blood on Snow byJo Nesbo

Blood on Snow” is a bit of a departure for Jo Nesbo.  We are used to seeing serial killers through the eyes of his police detective, Harry Hole.  This tale is told in the first person by the contract serial killer himself, Olav, a “fixer” for an Oslo crime family.  He is a fixer with a moral compass, and that is what ultimately gets him in trouble.  Olav can do anything for his boss except drive a get-away car, deal in drugs, participate in a robbery, or deal in prostitution.  Mostly, he deals in killing people who, in his opinion, deserve it.

The main thrust of Olav’s tale is how he deals with the order to kill the boss’s wife, Corina.  Olav makes the mistake of wanting time to think about it, which dooms him to becoming expendable once the deed is done.  Even after Olav agrees to the job he stalls.  He concentrates first on killing the wife’s supposed lover, who turns out to be the boss’s son and then he tries to make it seem like he has accomplished his task while actually protecting the wife.  But is Corina to be trusted?  Will Olav’s other love interest, Maria live or die?

This is a rather simple tale with an unusually principaled killer acting as anti-hero.  The characterizations of Olav and some of the people surrounding him are finely drawn, even though some of the characters seen through Olav’s eyes are romanticized and badly mis-judged.  Near the beginning of the book Olav describes a black widow spider who will devour her mate if he outlasts his stay.  This becomes a metaphor for the actions of Corina and women like her.

I am a big fan of Jo Nesbo, and “Blood on Snow” does not disappoint.  He takes the horror and thriller genres beyond their usual levels of literary sophistication.  His characters are always fascinatingly complex.  A recommended read for lovers of this genre.

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Phantom by Jo Nesbo

Those who follow this blog know I am a fan of Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian who is the top international best seller writer.  He is billed as a musician, songwriter, economist and author and he lives in Oslo.

His protagonist is Harry Hole, a former police detective with the Oslo Police Department.  Following the second in Nesbo’s trilogy about Hole the injured and weary detective resigned from the police force and moved to Hong Kong where he worked for a collection service and eventually go himself clean from alcohol and drug additions.  When his former lover, Rakal, alerts him that her son, Oleg, has been taken in on a charge of having murdered his best friend and fellow drug dealer, Gusto, Harry comes back to Oslo to work on the case, and that is the subject of the third in the Harry Hole trilogy, “Phantom.” With the assistance of his former partner, Beate Lonn, and Oleg’s attorney, Hans Christian, Harry works hard to prove Oleg’s innocence and in the process exposes a secretive drug lord and a cover-up that reaches high within the ranks of the Oslo Police Department.  Is Harry making a colossal mistake by believing the boy’s innocence?  All Harry seems to be able to focus on is finding a happy ending with Rakal promising to marry him and move to Hong Kong with him.  They are hopeful that Oleg can join them eventually.  Will Harry’s happy ending come true? Seems unlikely for such a hard-bitten anti-hero who has seen and experienced his share of tragedy over the years.

As in his previous Harry Hole novels, Nesbo delivers a compelling and complex tale full of twists and turns that will leave the ready feeling like they are on a perpetual roller coaster ride.  In the end a lot of people have died, and yet nothing has really changed.  Addicts still crave drugs (the one in question in this book is a new synthetic drug called “violin”) and will go to any lengths to get their fix.  High level officials remain on the take to see that nothing really changes to stop the relentless inflow of drugs to countries like Norway.

The way “Phantom”  is written it is probably the last of the Harry Hole mysteries, but who knows? Harry may rise from the ashes like a phoenix and be back for another round.  I hope so!

Liz Nichols

 

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The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

The Leopard”  is the sequel to Norwegian author, Jo Nesbo’s psychological thriller, “The Snowman.”  “The Leopard” is equally gruesome in the way murders are committed and equally suspenseful as former detective Harry Hole tries to find a serial killer before he murders everyone who spent an evening in a mountain cabin with him and everyone who gets close enough to the truth to become a threat.

Just when the reader thinks they know who the killer is, the author throws another twist into the plot.  There are also many subplots that create their own sets of intrigue.  Most importantly, Harry and his former colleagues at the Oslo police crime squad are pitted against the national crime fighters of Kripos to see which team can get to the serial killer first.  The internal politics keeps turning from one team to the other all to the detriment of catching the killer.  Only Harry seems completely focused on solving the crime while all his colleagues and political enemies spend their time posturing and trying to outdo each other.

There is also a personal subtext to this complex thriller.  Harry has his own demons to fight.  The book starts out with one of his crime squad coworkers finding him in a drunken and doped up state in Hong Kong.  He has never forgotten what the Snowman did to break up his family and to unsettle his own psyche.  He suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome among other problems.  He never is able to go cold turkey on his addictions and they serve to hinder his investigations as well as his personal life and threaten his career.  In the end, Harry must go back to Asia to try to find himself.

This book took some patience to get through.  There is such a complicated plot that it was easy to get confused, but in the end it turned out just as it should considering the personalities and weaknesses of the characters.

This book is not for mystery fans with weak stomachs.  The death scenes are horrific.  Those who enjoy sophisticated and complex psychological thrillers and Police procedurals and can stand gruesome murder scenes will love “The Leopard“.

Liz Nichols

 

 

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The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo has taken over where Stieg Larsson left off in the world of Nordic suspense writers.  The Snowman is a suspense and horror-filled tale of how homicide investigator, Harry Hole of the Oslo PD, manages to track down a serial killer dubbed the Snowman.

Elements of The Snowman are predictable: we know that the psychotic killer will come after Harry and his estranged spouse, Rakel, eventually.  Knowing that they are on the hit list just adds to the tension and the suspense.  There are plenty of twists and turns and dead ends before we reach the dramatic climax of the book.  The clues lead Harry to at least two others before he finally comes across the key clue in a blood sample that is hidden in a barn where one of the killings takes place.

Harry is an almost washed up cop at the start of the book.  He is almost kicked off the force by an image-conscious chief of police. Despite one or two sessions of binge drinking Harry manages to pull his life together to keep on trying to salvage his relationship with Rakel and her son, Oleg, who in many ways considers Harry his dad.

He also plods along looking for clues in the disappearances of a string of women over the years in Bergen and Oslo.  The characteristic that they all have in common is that they are all mothers and there are snowmen built during the first snow of the winter that greet the families that are being targeted just before the murders.  Eventually, the Snowman starts leaving clues and body parts, such as a woman’s head stuck on as the head of a snowman.  Then Harry finds the body of a missing cop from Bergen who had been tracking these killings.  Eventually he finds out that the woman detective his office hired was the daughter of the dead Bergen cop.  Is the daughter, Katrine, the Snowman killer, or just an over-zealous cop looking for her dad’s killer?

Other connections begin to fall into place that finally lead to revealing the real killer.

The Snowman is a gritty, bloody novel and is not for the faint of heart.  Those who like a classic horror story will love The Snowman.

Liz Nichols

 

 

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