Following the debut (The Bat, 2013) that took Harry Hole to Australia, this second case (originally published in 1998) takes Harry to Bangkok, filling the final gap in the Norwegian cop’s 10 best-selling adventures to date (Police, 2013, etc.).
Bjarne Møller, Harry’s Crime Squad boss back in Oslo, insists that he’s just the man to help U.S.-born Bangkok Homicide Inspector Liz Crumley investigate the stabbing of Atle Molnes, Norwegian ambassador to Thailand, while keeping a lid on the fact that his body was found in a well-known brothel—and that he was murdered. At the same time, Møller and Secretary of State Bjørn Askildsen don’t tell Harry any number of facts highly material to the investigation. So Harry and Liz have all the fun of following evidence that suggests Molnes was having an affair with a receptionist in his office, that he was interested in child pornography and that his fondness for backing the wrong horses had put him deeply in debt to loan sharks, who proceed to rebuff Harry’s bullheaded approach to interrogation before throwing him out on his ear. The trail to the ambassador’s killer winds past his sad-eyed widow, Hilde, and his daughter, Runa, currency dealer Jens Brekke and embassy dead-ender Ivar Løken, African-American parking attendant Jim Love, and Woo, a freelance goon. To keep up with this colorful crowd, Harry must strong-arm suspects, break into their premises to conduct illegal searches and fend off every prostitute in town.
Perhaps the most original touch in this early, well-wrought adventure is the most depressing: Despite Bangkok’s well-earned reputation for moral and official corruption, the most repulsive cockroaches Harry finds are consistently Norwegians.