What is it that grabs in a Jo Nesbo? Harry Hole has been very carefully conceived. Part of the strong tradition of flawed heroes, Harry has a Dirty Harry quality which was bound to impress me as soon as I read my first Nesbo. What is it that makes him both insufferable and dead sexy at the same time? He has the capacity to love, to remember, to feel, to empathise, to anticipate, but sacrifices his relationships on the altar of his determination to track down and defeat serial killers; he is scarcely attractive, but lithe and angular, case-hardened, rough – an alcoholic, a loner and an oddball; yet he has integrity, understanding, commitment. He is every thinking girl’s dream bit of rough. And he’s a wizard with the ’cuffs! Nesbo knows that a character who stands up for the morality of honest policing and opposes deceit and hypocrisy in the force has the captivating appeal of Robin Hood, a renegade against the corruption of power. He comes to us with a carefully-wrought family background which makes him essentially human, for he cannot escape his sense of kinship duty; he has inner anger and a wealth of inconsolable regrets; his past haunts him. He is doomed and slowly abusing his body to death.
I could wax lyrical about Nesbo’s plots, but, as regular readers here know, I’m not so struck on the meticulous detail of killer method. Nevertheless, it is Harry I come back to, mesmerised by the depth and range of authorial characterisation that makes him credible and, for fiction, a brilliant creation.
You pronounce Hole ‘Hoola’, by the way; a Norwegian friend told me. But ‘hole’ seems somehow appropriate; he always seems to be in one!
I can’t help myself: when I read Nesbo, I’m a Rakel or a Kaja; nothing like immersion in a good novel… and willing suspension of disbelief!