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"So every man of Israel deserted David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri.
But the men of Judah, from the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king."

-- 2 Samuel 20:2

This is one of my very favorite police procedural stories, beautifully enriched by a deep dive into a part of the history of World War II that's not well known outside of Norway.

What does it mean to be loyal? That's the overall theme of this book and Mr. Nesbo provides some pretty interesting fictional food for self-examination. As you read this book, put yourself in the place of each character and ask yourself what you would do.

Harry Hole is that most useful of all detectives, one who is human . . . oh so human, so that we step back from admiring the detective to be astonished by the echoes of vivid reality portrayed for us. As a reader, it can be terribly easy to underestimate this book. True writing craft doesn't show its care, and Mr. Nesbo is astonishingly good at making a brilliant story seem like just so much ordinary potatoes until the cymbals clap together and jolt you into jaw-dropping amazement at what you've just read.

This is the first Harry Hole book I've read, and I can hardly wait to read the next one. The Redbreast ends in such a way that the possibilities for future plots are enhanced . . . rather than restricted by the events in this remarkable story.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 16, 2011
1st book translated into English but the 3rd in the Harry Hole series.

This is a complex Norwegian thriller, a fabulous modern day mystery influenced by captivating and informative flashbacks from events and roles Norwegians were forced into during WW11.

The story begins with Harry Hole, the protagonist, a gifted policeman, who caused his department a high profile embarrassment and was subsequently relegated to surveillance work monitoring neo-Nazi activities, a punishment Harry quickly turns into a new challenge.

Harry''s speculative mind and acquired skills are just what is needed when word on the street surfaces that someone in the underworld is looking for a very particular vintage sniper rifle. He knows he is on the right track when a former Nazi sympathiser is found silenced with his throat cut and victims of the vintage sniper rifle start to accumulate. From the very first the reader follows the path that Harry takes and also the path the sniper takes, creating a unique suspense, a proverbial high gear cat and mouse game .

The tale''s WW11 tread slowly interweaves into the main as the pages go by. This is a page-turner at its best with narratives that move between Harry's present day inquiries and the Eastern front in 1944, where a small group of Norwegian Nazis with their own agenda are fighting alongside the Germans and at some point switch their allegiance to Russia and become part of the Resistance.

The plot is a gripping tale of political intrigue, love and a serial killer with multiple personalities. This fairly long novel is character driven, a rich creation brilliantly composed with every key stroke. I found it hard to grasp at first there were a lot of seemingly unrelated events happening at a rapid pace, I wondered where all the pieces of the puzzle fit, but gradually the pattern took shape and the confusing flashbacks suddenly became clear as the thrill of the mystery escalated.

This police procedural novel is one of the most captivating and compelling stories I have read in a long time. I am hooked on this series and I am looking forward to reading "'Nemesis"'.
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on July 13, 2017
A huge step up from his first two novels. A pretty entertaining light summer read. I read the first two novels and the writing was extremely bad that I don't know why they were translated years later. The only reason to buy them is if you wanted the complete Harry Hole series. It's almost like someone sat down Jo Nesbo and pointed out how horrible his novels had been and he actually took note. This one has better characters and storyline and I would actually contemplate buying the next one Nemesis. I came close to bailing on Author after second novel.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 10, 2007
Sometimes being in a wheelchair is cool. Rolling down the aisle of a bookstore and having this cover at eye level. It jumped out at me so I picked it up and read the back. What a discovery! This book defies all conventions, it is rivetting and unpredictable. A murder mystery that spans generations - a historical drama and a modern who-dun-it. Great characters, get ready for a rip roaring read.
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on March 9, 2007
I read Jack Batten's review of the book in The Toronto Star, and decided to pick up the Redbreast and The Devil's Star for my vacation "beach" read. Well, in fact, it was such a great read, I can't even classify it as a throw away beach read. You want to know more about the main character, Harry Hole; you hate him, feel sorry for him, love him, all at the same time. I'd like to get my hands on some of the preceeding books to find out more about why he is the way he is. If you are reading the books read the Redbreast first, then the Devil's Star.
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Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy made Scandinavian crime fiction hip again. So, in the wake of his success (and the vacuum created by his untimely death in 2004), Jo Nesbo was brought in to fill the empty spotlight. With only mixed results, I am afraid.

I decided to start with REDBREAST because it is the first book of his Harry Hole series that has been translated in English (although there had been two books previous to this one in Norwegian - and there are references to the hero's previous cases). The story may be a standalone but the character development suffers from this truncation.

The story of REDBREAST steps on two timelines that slowly converge. One is the story of a group of young Norwegian Nazis fighting on the side of the Germans during WWII. The other is a mess of a police story where a mistake prone Harry Hole stumbles onto a case of the import of a vintage (and extremely expensive) sniper rifle and then manages to fumble most clues and miss a number of opportunities to solve the mystery long before its climax.

I am not going to continue with any more books by this writer. The narration feels forced, with a number of mood-killing reality TV references, predictable stereotypes and one-page chapters. What is worse, the characters are both underdeveloped and internally inconsistent. Nesbo is clearly not in Larsson's league.

I gave the book an extra star for cantor. When the Germans themselves try to squiggle out of their national shame of supporting Nazism (not to mention still avoiding paying their WWII debts), it was brave for Nesbo to admit that the majority of Norwegians in the 1940's indeed supported the National Socialists and were willing collaborators of Hitler's vision.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book does not justify the admission price.
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on January 26, 2011
A thriller that has excellent flash backs to war time giving an insight into the problems facing the soldiers during those times. Then back to current day and see how the experiences have left their mark.
A killer with certain techniques leads Inspector Hole all around.
Holes character is wonderfully flawed with his drinking and smoking, you can almost smell him sitting next to you.
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on October 22, 2011
The setting is Oslo, Norway, 1999-2000, but the story also takes the reader to Austria, South Africa and the Russian eastern front (Leningrad) in 1942-44. The plot is complex and, towards the end, I thought it was perhaps a bit too clever but admittedly ingenious. The hero, police inspector Harry Hole, who is personified by anti-heroic traits, is relentless in his pursuit of answers to solve four murders. He discovers that there seems to be a Neo-Nazi conspiracy connected to a group of old WWII Norwegian Nazi collaborators.

This certainly qualifies as a page-turning suspenseful thriller and it helps the reader that events are neatly sorted into 107 short chapters according to date and location specifics. Non-Nordic readers may find all the street names and geographic locations in authentic Norwegian to be quaint but not too difficult to follow. (I would have included a brief language aid in a preface.) This book was not written with English-speaking readers as a target. The translator, Don Bartlett, deserves recognition for a true and accurate rendering.

Jo Nesbø is narratively skillful and gives insight into how the human mind reasons and rationalizes through dialogue. At times he educates the reader in the practice of deceptive behaviour, in psychological disorders brought on by conflict and in how history is often written so as to either fit or to alter popular opinion. There are plenty of underlying messages here. War is survival of the fittest. Loyalty often has a price only some are willing to pay. Victory can be unjustly one-sided. Romantic love can be a refuge from trauma but cruel reality may hauntingly intervene. Subterfuge can be deadly for its practitioners as well as the innocent. A great deal of noble effort is sometimes robbed of recognition and reward. Hole is no knight in shining armour but his determination to get answers no matter whom or what stands in his way wins us over.
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