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26 November 2013

Jo Nesbo: Cockroaches

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A disappointing introduction to Harry Hole 
I haven't read any of Jo Nesbo's detective novels in the Harry Hole series so was keen to read this one because it is #2 in the series and I always try to read a series in order if I can. All of the later books in the series have been translated from Norwegian ahead of this book so there was probably a clue that this was not one of his better books.

Harry Hole is a complex but flawed character, a skilled detective and investigator who thinks outside the box but personally a very troubled individual who hits the bottle hard when he is not working.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand, Atle Molnes, is found stabbed with an ancient oriental knife in a seedy Motel, come brothel on the outskirts of Bangkok. Molnes has been a senior Christian Democratic politician who was given the posting by his close political friend who had recently become Prime Minister. An urgent meeting between influential people in the Prime Minister's Department, Foreign Affairs and the Crime Squad quickly agree that the matter must be investigated quickly without undue public attention. They decide to send one investigator to help the local police with their investigations. Harry Hole is their unanimous selection based on his recent performance in solving a case in Sydney.

After quickly sobering up, Hole flies to Bangkok to meet his local counterparts. Nesbo does a great job in describing conditions is Bangkok, the heat, traffic, noise, bars etc., the life of an ex-pat and the diplomatic community, and the way the local police operate.

Hole quickly gets to know the Embassy staff, the Ambassador's wife, Hilde, and her teenage daughter and several key Norwegian ex-patriots in Bangkok. He soon discovers that Hilde, a borderline alcoholic, had started an affair with Jens Brekke, a rich financial trader, within days of her arrival in Bangkok. He also discovers the seedy side of Bangkok, with its sex and drug trade and links to pedofilia, all of which have some impact on the case.

The book was well written and the investigations were well documented and I could easily become a fan of Harry Hole (though I did have some difficulty following Norwegian names and places). The first half of the book was fine but later on I did have trouble with complexity and unbelievability of the plot line which left me wondering if I would read later books in the series. As I said at the beginning there is probably a clue that 9 out of 10 books in the series were translated earlier that it was not one of the better books in the series. Will I read more Harry Hole books? Probably - I have a copy of "Police", the latest in the series which I have been meaning to read for some time.

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