Review: The Redbreast

The Redbreast
The Redbreast
By Jo Nesbø
(Harper, Mass Market Paperback, 9780062068422, August 2011, 576pp.)

The Short of It:

Took a little time for the story to build but ended up being a rather satisfying read.

The Rest of It:

This will be short because my hand is a hurtin’!

This story is a mix of old and new and leaps back and forth in the telling. Part war story, part crime fiction. The war story involves the Norwegian’s fight against the Russians which leads up to the creation of a neo-Nazi movement in Oslo right around the turn of the 21st century.

In the present day, Officer Harry Hole accidentally shoots a secret service agent and is given a “promotion” which basically means that he is assigned to a glorified desk job. However, when he realizes that the shell casings from that day appear to be from a weapon that is no longer around, he digs deeper and what he finds goes all the way back to WWII.

The Redbreast is the third book in the series featuring Detective Harry Hole but it was not my first time meeting Harry. No, I started with book #5 The Devil’s Star and have been reading them out-of-order ever since. The books are wonderful but they have been translated out-of-order which makes it difficult impossible to read them in order. In fact, the first two books are not available anywhere so you make do with what you can get.

However, the evolution of Harry as a person is what keeps me reading and I don’t mind taking these trips back into his past to see how he started out. The latest books in the series seem tighter and more fast paced whereas the older books include quite a bit of set-up. The first half of The Redbreast was very slow and tedious for me, but once I passed the halfway mark I was in familiar territory and loving every minute.

Nesbo’s books contain a sophisticated air that I don’t normally detect in American crime fiction. The tone is a bit different and although I can’t quite put my finger on why, it works for me. If you enjoy well-written crime fiction, you cannot go wrong with this series. Even if you have to read them out-of-order.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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29 Responses

  1. This sounds like one Anna would like for its WWII connection.

  2. I know I’ve read them out of order too, and have to bitch about it every time I do a review. And I would agree, the first half of this book is laborious, and for that reason is probably my least favorite of them all. Still it is so important to read because so much happens that sets up the remaining storyline in future novels. (BTW I’ve heard that the first two aren’t all that great, so perhaps that explains a few things.)

  3. I have been hearing so many good things about this series from Sandy and a few others, and think that if I am going to invest in any of the many crime fiction books out there, these will be the ones that I read. I do so wish that the first few were translated and available, but I guess I will have to start with whatever is at hand. I really liked your review today, Ti, and I will remember that the beginning of this read is a little slow.

  4. Hmmm…I’ve heard good things about this author but having to read them out of order would drive me nuts!

  5. I’ve been reading a Danish crime author who is being translated out of order as well — what is up with that? Totally maddening. I’m not totally wild about Scandinavian crime fic but now and then, I get a hankerin’ — I’ll have to keep Nesbo in mind.

    • I saw an interview with Nesbo when I picked up his first book and I have to admit, I had a crush on him after that. It’s not like he is hunky in a model way but his accent and the tshirt and jeans thing… made a fan of me and then the writing confirmed it.

  6. I didn’t like this one so much. I’d say omit the first three! :–)

  7. I wonder why they translated the books out of order? I really do need to try some Nesbo.

    • Not to mention that the publishers changed twice…which made it even more confusing because one deal was for so many books with publisher A and then publisher B had the other half but actually published the most recent translation before Publisher A’s previous books.

  8. ah another rave about Jo Nesbo, deservingly so. I may take Jill’s advice to ignore the first 3 but you are right in saying I think the Scandinavian crime suits my taste buds better than any other!

  9. I have had an interest in this author but I have not done a thing about it yet!

  10. I’ve avoided this series precisely because the first two haven’t been translated, and I love to read series in order. Hearing it’s still worth it does make me think it might be worth it.

    • If you start with Redbreast, you might be okay. Here is a list: http://jonesbo.com/#!/books Redeemer is sometimes hard to come by. You will have to get it from BookDepositoryand use the free shipping unless they make it more readily available here.

  11. I’ve been collecting Nesbo books and haven’t read a single one yet. SAD….Thanks for sharing with us, sounds like a descent story.

    • I have to say that out of all of them, I enjoyed The Devil’s Star the most. That was the first one I read. The Snowman was also extremely good. They are all good but the more recent titles are more polished.

  12. I have yet to read any Nesbo. But my mom is getting a few of the books from me for her birthday. Hopefully she won’t mind the out-of-ordernish.

  13. I was wondering if reading the books out of order was a problem. I did the Maisie Dobbs books that way and it was a bit disconcerting to do them that way. Glad to hear that doesn’t happen with these since there’s no other option!

    • It’s a little weird because he is drinking and then not drinking or you know the outcome of a character and then see them alive in the earlier books but the cases aren’t really related so it’s ok.

  14. This is an author that I have been meaning to read for a long time. But when it comes time to buy books, I consistently forget. Need to remember.

  15. I’m trying to read these in order as best I can after Sandy gave me the order and this probably wasn’t the best place to start as it did kind of drag in the beginning. Glad to hear the rest are more fast-paced and tighter.

  16. Sounds like an interesting book. I’ve added it to my ‘to read’ list. Thanks :-)

  17. I have all of his books but have read only one so far. I like Nesbo!

  18. I agree, the beginning of this one was painful. Maybe it is a good thing that we are getting them out of order? While I enjoyed this because it deepens my understanding of Harry, if this had been my first Nesbo I wouldn’t be as hooked on him as I am.

    If I had to put a reason as to why I seem to enjoy most Scandinavian (and many British) Crime fiction, I think it would be because the books are much less about the sensational crimes and more cerebral and focused on the detective/main character.

    Before someone says, “but what about XYZ American author?” There is a subtle difference for me. Take Reichs’ Temperance Brennan, while we know a lot about her the further in the series we read, much of the info is superficial. With Nesbo’s Hole or Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne, we really get a view into their complicated psyche.

    Now that I have written a book…and I could just be full of it! …

  19. [...] Peter Benchley 38. Wild by Cheryl Strayed 39. The City & The City by China Mieville 40. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø 41. The Bird Saviors by William J. Cobb 42. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold [...]

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