Harry Hole didn’t want to look for anyone anymore. A Norwegian detective and serial killer expert planned to slowly drink himself to death in Los Angeles. At the beginning of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø’s new novel, he returns from here to murder two young women.
Sixty-three-year-old Nesbø, one of the most famous detective writers alive, has already written his thirteenth “detective book”. At the dramatic end of the previous one called The Knife of 2019, the detective and a nice guy with clear blue eyes, Harry Hole, chose a city at random, got on a plane and disappeared from Oslo, where nothing good awaited him.
At the beginning of the thirteenth book Zatmění, now translated by Kateřina Krištůfková and published by Kniha Zlín, he is desperate, has nightmares and is running out of money. Especially for drinking. In Los Angeles, he “sort of settled in as soon as he discovered the Creatures bar in the neighborhood, where they had such cheap alcohol that he figured he could probably drink himself to death there.”
In this bar, a detective meets an aging actress who owes a lot of money to the Mexican mafia. An elderly lady with a penchant for a similar drinking and perhaps lifestyle, Hole, a knight without fear or shame, decides to save her. He only has a few days to do it. And for that he has to return to Oslo, a city he never wanted to see again, to people he never wanted to meet again, and also to his little son, whose eyes are as clear blue as his.
The new book is in some ways refreshingly less serious than the previous ones. Poles no longer have to worry about breaking the rules or their alcohol consumption. He drinks much more than usual and works not for the police, but for a well-known rich man who has been accused of murdering two young women and needs to prove his innocence. It is clear to the detective at first glance that he may not be so innocent in some respects.
This time, the search for the killer is colored by the seconds passing too quickly on the display of Mexican mobile phones. Harry Hole is really not in the best shape, and instead of experienced colleagues, he only has the unsympathetic, corrupt Truls, then his sidekick Øystein, who is a taxi driver and budding drug dealer, plus a psychologist dying of cancer. This dream team meets in a room at the oncology clinic and solves the case from there.
Writer Jo Nesbø at the launch of his book Eclipse in Oslo, Norway, August 2022. | Photo: Alamy / Profimedia.cz
Jo Nesbø, who has sold over 55 million books worldwide, is perhaps as famous a detective story author today as the once queen of the genre, Agatha Christie. Like her, he created a detective that readers fell in love with because he is not only intelligent, but also has a lot of relatable flaws.
The opinion of the protagonist’s behavior can change a lot during the reading, but the constant of his character remains unchanged. Harry Hole has an unwavering moral compass as well as understanding the faults of others.
In the novel Eclipse, for example, he is able to raise money for his new sidekick, a corrupt policeman, because he understands how a person can accumulate debts due to losing bets on horses.
In essential matters, however, the hero always takes the side of morality and justice. Nowadays, when in books this is often seen as laughable naivety and the protagonists are sometimes perhaps too morally ambivalent, Hole represents a likable exception.
At the same time, the writer adheres to essentially the same modus operandi as Agatha Christie once did. We also know more or less what to expect from Jo Nesbø’s books, and we always get it. The narration always has a great pace, Hole’s search is alternated with looks “into the head” of the killer, and everything is at the same time motivated by motives from the life of the detective, who is often personally affected by the cases – his life is at stake, or the lives of those closest to him are also at stake.
Eclipse book cover. | Photo: Kniha Zlín Publishing House
Plots tend to be unpredictable, but at the same time in a certain way recombined, similar to Agatha Christie. And just like with her, it doesn’t matter, because the moment of surprise – also in the case of the Eclipse news, the reader will think “my God, what is this again” – belongs to the charm of “holovek”.
In all this, the constant struggle with alcohol addiction remains, which the hero rarely wins, but the reader cheers for him all the time, even though he is often disappointed.
The background is colored by the music of the 70s and 80s of the last century, which Harry Hole and his friends love.
The only thing left to reveal is that the protagonist will not drink himself to death this time either. At the end of Eclipse, on the other hand, the possibility that another ruthless criminal is waiting for him is very clearly opened up. And another fun detective story for the reader.
Video: I write for friends, says Jo Nesbø
“You can recognize a good story from the first page. It’s like someone inviting you into their living room,” said Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø on DVtv last year. | Video: Michael Rozsypal
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