Author – Jo Nesbø (translated by Don Bartlett)
Published – 2006
Genre – Crime fiction
I’ve been aware for a while that Jo Nesbø has been something of a gap in my crime fiction reading. I was lucky to win a copy of The Redbreast via Twitter a little while ago and have finally got round to reading it. Billed as “The next Stieg Larsson” and with many of the Harry Hole titles prominently advertised, I had high hopes.
Goodness what a slow book it was to get going! The very beginning was fine, with a few different and seemingly separate storylines developing. Then the story moves back to 1942, giving the reader no real idea of the relevance of this new thread. The story then moved back and forth between the present day and the wartime setting. There was an obvious assumption that one of the characters in 1942 was also someone from the 1999 thread, but the reader is kept in the dark as to who. Sadly, I didn’t actually care. There was very little about any of the characters to like, and I didn’t feel that more than one or two were dealt with in any detail. It was critical to the story was that the motivation was kept a mystery, but this made for a difficult read.
The one engaging character in the book is the main detective – Harry Hole. But even he felt like a fairly typical crime fiction detective – unorthodox, a heavy drinker.
The story follows Hole’s efforts to uncover who has paid for a gun which will probably be used by an assassin in Norway. There are a few clues that the gun has been used before the bodies start turning up. Then Hole has to race to find the assassin before the final target is killed. I may be making it sound more exciting than it was!
I really struggled to get through the book. It is long (600+ pages) and at about 150 pages in I could happily have given up. When I mentioned this on Twitter I was surprised to find that Nesbø wasn’t quite as widely worshipped as I had thought. I pressed on and it actually picked up in the middle, but towards the end it became harder to read. I found myself skipping descriptive passages & just trying to spot action and dialogue. I think there was a good story in there – but it was hidden somewhere in the 600 pages!
As well as not enjoying the writing I was also disappointed by the ending, which I thought was unsatisfactory in several ways (although I wouldn’t want to give anything away here).
I’m tempted to think that I can now cross Nesbø off my list – been there, read that, although I do think I might seek out another title but try to spot one which others have enjoyed more than The Redbreast. Is there someone who can make a convincing argument for pressing on with other titles?
You can see another review of this title at Reactions to Reading.
Score – 3/5