Bibliophile's Reviews > The Redbreast

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø
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's review
Oct 07, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, fiction, mystery-and-suspense, scandinavia, cop-stories
Read from October 06 to 07, 2010

The Redbreast is actually the third of Jo Nesbø's detective novels featuring the alcoholic Harry Hole (who is on the wagon for most of this particular novel), but alas, it was the first to be translated into English. Nevertheless, it works fine as a standalone, though the impact of one particular event might have been greater had we been able to read about the character in the two previous novels. Anyway ... back to The Redbreast, which involves Nazis, both Old Skoole and Neo-, a couple of touching love stories, mistaken identities, corrupt police officers and a marvelous and beautifully written evocation of wartime on the Russian Front during World War II. Though perhaps there are occasions where Nesbø relies a tiny bit too much on coincidence, this is a fantastic mystery - I was kept guessing until the very last page and I had to read this lengthy novel quite compulsively until I finished it. (One particular mystery that we, the readers, know the answer to is not actually solved in the book, so clearly it will be a theme for later.)

I seem to read a great deal of Scandinavian crime fiction, but The Redbreast really stood out for me in terms of plot, character development, and writing style. I know I am reading everything in translation, but Nesbø's writing seems far, far more elegant and crisp than Henning Mankell's for example, and it is miles away from the total infelicity of Stieg Larsson's efforts which I always felt would have been best served by some seriously tough love in the editing department. Indeed, because there was a similar sort of Nazi subplot in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I couldn't help but mentally compare that novel to this one, and yet again, I cannot fathom the undeserved popularity of the Larsson books compared to something like this which is actually well-written, has believable characters and a plot that makes sense. Nesbø manages to stay away from the tedious accumulation of unnecessary detail of which both Larsson and Mankell are guilty; all of his characters seem like real people, rather than random collections of cliched plot devices, and wonder of wonders, Harry doesn't actually solve one of the biggest mysteries of the story. Indeed, he only solves the main plot because the criminal wants him to, as opposed to all those amateur detectives who solve cases that have baffled the professionals for years - yes, I AM looking at you Mikael Blomqvist.

In short, highly highly recommended for everyone who likes their mysteries Nordic, their characters fascinating and their writing excellent!
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Reading Progress

10/06/2010 page 95
10/07/2010 page 199
37.0% "Totally, utterly engrossing! I have no idea where we're going, but I am enjoying the ride!"

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