Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Jo Nesbo: The Devil's Star Review

Detective Harry Hole is after another serial killer in something of a change of style for Nesbo. Less of the explicit violence and gore, more psychological movings, more Hitchcock than Grand Guignol.

Someone is abducting young women from the daylit streets of Oslo. Bodies are found, characterised by a chopped-off finger and a blood red diamond secreted on the corpse. The case is given to Harry's arch rival, the man he suspects of being a smuggler and a murderer, Inspector Tom Waaler. The two are due a showdown ...

Estranged from his great love Rakel, booze-sodden, his only witness against Waaler recanting, Hole is a mess - even more so than usual. His resignation lies waiting on his Kommandant's desk. Even worse, he has been offered alternative employment by Tom Waaler. In the meantime anther woman is killed, another blood red diamond found on the body. The killer seems to have a pattern and Harry, with the unorthodox help of illegal pharmaceuticals, figures it out. They have a suspect, they have a schedule, they have timings - just set a trap and wait. Sure enough, the trap is sprung and they have their man.

At this point Waaler makes his demand to test Harry: if Harry wants a lucrative post-police position in the smuggling racket then he has to kill their suspect. Not too difficult a task in the rickety Oslo jail system, especially with other officers on the payroll. Waaler ups the stakes with threats against Rakel and her son.

Cometh the hour, cometh the perfect Hole solution: he kidnaps the killer! Hiding from his own colleagues, hiding from the smugglers' cadre, the suspect denies the killing and gives Harry enough evidence for him to reach out to a few trusted friends. Unfortunately Waaler is monitoring those friends and closing in on Harry's hideout. Waaler also chooses to strengthen his hand by abducting Rakel's young son.

So, we have a manhunt within a manhunt, a chase within a chase. Harry faces professional ruin and death, and he risks the death of the closest thing to a son he will ever know. Harry has killed, Waaler is a killer. The reckoning beckons ...

And that's a good point to leave things. There's an expertly crafted denouement, there's the real killer to find (and a nice touch on hiding a body). One of the best Nesbo's I've read to date, all the better for the toning down of the blood and body counts. If you like your crime novels tight and tense then you'll certainly enjoy this.


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