12 September 2013

Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbø

The Bat by Jo NesbøDare 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:

Vintage Paperback, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780345807090
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 9/12/13, 6:47 AM  

As you know, I am a rabid fan of the Harry Hole series, and of Nesbo, but never read this one, and read but didn't love the second in the series also. I think it took him a while to work up to his game. I hope you don't give up based on this one!

Sandy Nawrot 9/12/13, 7:04 AM  

Yeah, and I think that is why they didn't publish the first two books until now...because they just weren't up to the standard of the remaining books. But there is quite a few references to his case in Australia, and in fact is what put Harry on the map as a serial killer expert. At this point, as much as I love this series, I don't think I can go back and read these books. I have baggage. You will understand if you keep reading.

bermudaonion 9/12/13, 7:48 AM  

I've heard so much about this series, I feel like I know Harry personally. I really want to try one of Nesbo's books but don't know if I'll grab one I already own or seek this one out.

JoAnn 9/12/13, 8:10 AM  

After all of Sandy and Jill's praises for this series, I bought The Redbreast at the library book sale. But I thought it was the first in the series - guess I'll have to look for The Bat instead.

Daryl 9/12/13, 2:49 PM  

its a great series ...

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 9/12/13, 7:22 PM  

Hmmm...I need to see if our library system has these in audio. Sounds good.

Nise' 9/12/13, 10:15 PM  

I have every intention of reading this series. My library does not yet have this first book.

(Diane) bookchickdi 9/13/13, 7:50 AM  

I went to a signing of his a few years ago. He has quite a dedicated following in the US. There were people who had stacks of his books for him to sign. I read The Snowman and although I don't usually like these kinds of books, I did like this one.

SuziQoregon 9/13/13, 11:11 AM  

I was so glad to see this post because I haven't read Jo Nesbo yet either. I've got a couple on my ereader but I'm compulsive about series and have to start at the beginning. I'm glad you enjoyed this. One of these days I'll read it myself.

Barbara 9/13/13, 11:11 AM  

I read his latest novel and that was my first. I really liked it, so now I want to go back and read the series in order - that is, if they have all been published here in order.

Buried In Print 9/13/13, 11:15 AM  

Looks like my first comment disappeared; I hope this doesn't duplicate. I was saying that I only just discovered the series with this book's translation last autumn as well. Sounds like we enjoyed it equally. There is an interesting podcast of the World Book Club's interview with him on the BBC that I found added to my enjoyment of it, but, then, I always do enjoy their interviews.

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