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THE REDBREAST

ISBN: 9780099478546
Harry Hole, newly promoted inspector for the Oslo-based national Security Service, is a surly, wounded sort, an emotional wreck. Introduced in Norwegian author Jo Nesbø's first novel, The Devil's Star, Hole lives alone, drinks too much, and is congenitally unable to relate to his fellow officers, save for his dependable partner, Ellen Gjelten. But Hole is good at doggedly and bravely solving crimes, and here he confronts a half dozen separate murders and felonies that initially seem unrelated. Of course, in prime Ross McDonald fashion, all interlock after a lot of globe-hopping footwork. Events both ultra-contemporary and lost in the mists of World War II usher in the headline-ready themes of the novel, in the manner of recent revelations concerning, say, Günter Grass's service in the Waffen SS. Nesbø's prose -- in a taut translation by Don Bartlett -- is delivered in compact, cohesive chapters that tantalize the reader without giving the game away. Redbreast defies categories like noir or police procedural, with more leisurely pacing and character unfolding than is common in domestic U.S. productions. And yet, this whole mode owes its very existence to American pioneers, and Nesbø's transnational stylings pay homage to this lineage, in everything from the faintly ribald name of his protagonist to an exegesis delivered by one character on the roots of Norway's America-philia. And could it be possible that the name of Harry Hole's boss, Bjarne Møller, is meant to echo -- Barney Miller? --Paul Di Filippo