Harry returns to Norway after three years, drawn by the news that Rakel's son, Oleg, is in serious trouble. Things haven't gone well for Oleg since Rakel kicked Harry out - he's a junkie, in love with a junkie, arrested for shooting another junkie. Can Hole find the real murderer?
Of course, Nesbo being Nesbo, things aren't that simple. There's a shady Russian gangster (think "Zek") and a sociopathic young pusher to raise the temperature, and a jealous brother with military training to add to the shooters. The plot, though, is less convoluted than others in the series but doesn't suffer because of that.
The book is also less bloody than some; the pain is more mental than physical - no less so for Harry as the ghosts of his past do their best to disrupt his present and seduce his future.
Worth reading? Absolutely. It's tense, gripping and very well written. Does it pass the mother/vicar test? No for your mother - she wouldn't understand much of it (well, mine wouldn't.) Yes for the vicar.
Can you read this if you haven't read others in the series? Yes. You might not get some of the references but that won't mar your enjoyment.