Retired Inspector Harry Hole, who thinks he’s safe from his demons as an underpaid lecturer in Oslo’s Police College, gets blackmailed into returning to the Crime Squad Unit, with predictably explosive results.
Do vampires exist? Maybe not, but vampirists, in academic expert Hallstein Smith’s suitably pedantic distinction, certainly do, and one of them is at work in Oslo. After meeting Elise Hermansen, an attorney specializing in rape cases, on Tinder, he’s evidently bitten her to death with a formidable set of iron teeth and drunk her blood. Given the remarkable absence of useful forensic evidence and the tenuous connection between the killer and his victim, one-eyed Police Chief Mikael Bellman, eager to burnish his crime-fighting credentials in support of his nomination as Minister of Justice, wants Harry Hole (Police, 2013, etc.) on the case, and he’s willing to threaten legal proceedings against Police College student Oleg Fauke, who just happens to be Harry’s stepson, to make it happen. Meanwhile, the killer has not been idle. Instead of letting a discreet interval elapse between his outrages, he attacks a second victim, concocts a smoothie from her blood and some lemon, and leaves a signature V on her door. More victims will follow in short order, and the case will continue to grow darker and more complex, even after Harry focuses the Crime Squad’s manhunt on Valentin Gjertsen, who escaped from Ila Prison four years ago. In fact, Nesbø, borrowing a page from Jeffery Deaver, piles on so many twists within twists within twists that even the most conscientious readers may end up puzzled about every circumstance of the killings except the pervasive and powerfully evoked evil behind them.
Middling for this distinguished series: yet more evidence of why Scandinavian crime writers continue to dominate international bestseller lists.