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A READER'S JOURNAL

Police
A Harry Hole Novel

by
Jo Nesbø

ARJ2 Chapter: Reading for Enjoyment
Published by Alfred Knopf/NY in 2012
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2013

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This is a Harry Hole novel, but Harry is nowhere to be found, only a Russian Odessa revolver hidden in an old cupboard which could put Harry behind bars due to a little unfinished business about a case he never really solved as much as dissolved. Policemen begin dying mysteriously, obviously due to a serial killer, and we know Harry is the Sherlock of choice for ferreting out such purveyors of dastardly deeds. Each new death is déjà vu all over again as policemen are found murdered at the site of a previous bloody murder, sometimes after they had walked away from their car leaving a loaded pistol behind. What could possess policemen to do that? Theories abound and in the absence of Harry's decisive mental processes, his former associates are wandering in the dark, their only solace coming from various rules of Harry's that they occasionally recall.

Ståle Aune, for example, he left the grueling schedule of police work to become a full-time therapist with regular hours.

[page 21] Did he miss profiling sick souls who killed people with such gruesome acts of brutality that he was deprived of sleep at night? Only to be woken up by Inspector Harry Hole demanding quick answers to impossible questions if he did finally fall asleep? Did he miss Hole turning him into the inspector's image, a starved, exhausted, monomaniacal hunter? Snapping at everyone who disturbed his work on the one thing he thought had any significance, slowly but surely alienating colleagues, family and friends
      Did he hell. He missed the importance of it.

This is the reader's dilemma about wether to read another Harry Hole novel: we would miss the importance of it, an importance which is quickly established in the first few pages as mutilated bodies are discovered, an importance that only Harry Hole can address and resolve. And in this novel, Harry is nowhere to be found; only well-meaning but floundering underlings whose only recourse is to ask themselves and each other, "What would Harry do?"

When young Stian was roused from his bed in the middle of the night to investigate why the ski-slope T-bars were running, we feel that Stian is walking into a trap. He is unable to find the emergency stop pole but manages to finally stop the T-bars from running when a feeling grabbed him.

[page 41] The feeling that someone was there. Someone was watching him.
      Stian Barelli slowly raised his head.
      And he felt the chill spread from an area at the back of his head, as though he were turning to stone, as though it were Medusa's face he was staring at. But it wasn't hers. It was a man dressed in a long, black leather coat. He had a lunatic's staring eyes and a vampire's open mouth with blood dripping from both corners. And he seemed to be floating above the ground. . . . He had found the emergency stop pole. It was protruding from the mouth of the man attached to one of the T-bars.

Harry Hole novels are not for beginners, nor for the faint of heart, and reading one into page 160 before Harry appears in the flesh is cruel and unusual punishment for a veteran reader. Harry Hole is the Sherlock Holmes of the of analysis defy logic but go to the core of the matter at hand. Take this example when Harry first appears to Ståle Aune.

[page 160] "Harry could still be wrong," Beate said. "Both with regard to how the murderer operates and that this is the next crime scene. Since the first officer died we've passed several dates for unsolved murders in Østland and nothing has happened."
      "But," Ståle said, "Harry's seen a similarity between the Saw Man and the other murders. Discipline planning combined with apparently unbridled brutality."
      "He called it gut instinct," Beate said. "But by that he meant &mdash "
      "Analysis based on non-systematized facts," Katrine said. "Also known as Harry's method."

Soon Harry's method is present in the flesh, entering Beate's house, possible site of another murder or abduction.

[page 231] Harry got up slowly. Stood quite still listening. Scenting the air.
      He was rusty, but he tried to absorb it and memorize everything he had seen. The first impression. He had emphasized it in his lectures again and again, how the first impressions at a crime scene were often the most important and correct, the collection of data while your senses were still on high alert, before they were blunted and counteracted by the forensics team's dry facts.

It was as if Harry were saying, "Wait! Wait! Don't tell me!" to all those around him, or better yet, getting there before any pre-formed opinions were lying in wait to distract his own senses and grab away his attention to details which others may not have seen, smelled, felt, heard, or otherwise noticed. He taught his students to move over the entire crime scene systematically so as to avoid missing items by focusing only on seemingly important areas. One should look at everything and only then will the important items shape into hard relief. "Don't search for something, just search."(Page 357) However, Harry had a fourth commandment, "Start searching where there is light." This process was used, not for crime scenes, but for deciding which area to investigate first in a complicated case, like the ones Harry was called in to work on.

As we enter the last third of the novel, the dead bodies build up almost as fast as the potential suspects for the killer. Every scene becomes a potential crime scene, and Harry Hole is likely to be the next victim, as each place he inspects could be luring him to his death or to a solution of his case.

Harry is working as a consultant to the police, but that doesn't keep him from giving orders, as when he demands Katrine check FBI statistics and correlate some data for him. She refuses.

[page 377] "Just give the figures, OK?"
      "Not OK!"
      "Well, regard it as an order then, Katrine Bratt."
      "OK, but . . . hey, just a minute! Who's boss here?"
      "If you have to ask, I doubt it's you."

Before the case is over, two attempts are made on Harry Hole's life, both of which are successful, but . . . wait a minute, they can't both be successful, can they? Even if the second one, a bullet to the head at close range bouncing around the inside of Harry's skull, segues to a funeral with Harry all dressed in black arrayed for all to see at the altar? Can we believe our eyes? Is this the end of the great Harry Hole or just the end of another great Harry Hole Novel?




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Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne

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