Perhaps not the best novel for a Nesbø initiate, but those with an affinity for the darkest and most literary crime fiction...

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THE REDEEMER

Rarely does a mystery novel succeed on so many levels, as the intricate plotting explores psychological and theological dimensions that go deeper than standard notions of good and evil.

As a literary stylist as well as a master of mystery, Nesbø (Phantom, 2012, etc.) has established himself as the king of Scandinavian crime fiction, a genre that became an international sensation in the wake of the posthumous success of Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and its sequels and film adaptations). Yet, tracing the publishing trail of Nesbø and his series featuring the intuitive alcoholic Harry Hole requires some detective work of its own. This is actually the novel that precedes The Snowman (2011), the work that launched Nesbø internationally as a best-selling author, and the sixth Harry Hole novel overall (the first two have yet to be published in the United States). It may also be the best, or at least the richest, in its evocation of a sinister plot involving the Salvation Army during the Oslo Christmas season. The rape of one Salvation Army teen by another sows the seeds for all the complications that follow, yet it takes most of the novel for the reader to be certain of the identities of the rapist and victim, as the very notion of identity defies easy resolution throughout. With its themes of forgiveness and redemption, and the difference between the two, the novel presents every one of its characters as a flawed human being, unable to separate into categories of good guys and bad guys. In fact, the title character is a shadowy contract murderer, and redemption also serves as a euphemism for a junkie’s fix. As one initially peripheral character who proves crucial tells Hole, “You’ve discovered that guilt is not as black-and-white as you thought when you decided to become a policeman and redeem humankind from evil. As a rule there’s little evil but a lot of human frailty. Many sad stories you can recognize in yourself.” Ultimately, a story with a lot of pieces to its puzzle hurtles toward a climax that is not merely sad, but tragic.

Perhaps not the best novel for a Nesbø initiate, but those with an affinity for the darkest and most literary crime fiction will want to get here as soon as they can.

Pub Date: May 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-59585-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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