Dare I admit that I haven't read Jo Nesbø until recently? I'm glad I waited, though, because I was able to start with the first entry in the Harry Hole series, meeting both the writer and his famous detective in their early days.
As many of you likely know, Nesbø is a native of Norway and is one of the lead authors in the current wave of Scandinavian crime fiction. Thus I admit to being surprised that The Bat takes place in Australia, mostly in Sydney.
Harry is sent down under to assist in the investigation of the brutal murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian ex-pat. The Australian authorities make it clear that Harry's role is to help Detective Andrew Kensington, and he's not to act without orders or knowledge of the local police. Right from the start, however, Harry sees things the Sydney team missed, and he can't help but put out some feelers of his own.
As Harry gets pulled deeper into the case and the city's underworld scene, he falls off the wagon and drinks to oblivion, takes drugs, hooks up with a couple of women, gets into fights, and misses his plane home. It's a good thing he stayed in Sydney, though, because once he sobers up (kind of) he begins to put the pieces together, ultimately catching the killer.
Harry is a complex character who has self-destructive tendencies and a dark past. Yet, despite his personal problems, he's smart, observant, and dedicated to the job. I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops over the course of the series.
I liked Nesbø's writing and plot development, although I thought there were a few instances of unnecessary tangents into the history of Aboriginal-European relations and information about regional theater productions. On the other hand, the extras gave the book more depth and firmly placed it in Australia.
I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio, 9 hr, 39 min), read by John Lee. It should come as no surprise that I loved Lee's performance. His characterizations were clear and consistent, and he was equally adept at handling the action scenes as he was at reading Harry's more introspective, darker moments. I was touched that Lee dedicated his performance to fellow narrator Robin Sachs, who died much too young.
Thanks to Random House Audio, I can share a sample of the audiobook:
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
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