Ali Karim is assistant editor at SHOTS and writes/reviews for The Rap Sheet, January Magazine, Deadly Pleasures, Crimespree and Mystery Readers International
Finally the debut of Nesbo’s bestselling Harry Hole series featuring the laconic detective finds itself translated into the English Language. Originally published in Norway , The Bat is the eighth Harry Hole thriller to be translated into English.
The wait has been well worth it as we finally discover why Hole is in bad odor with the fifth floor of Oslo’s Police Department, the relationship with his handicapped sister and why his personal life is so fractured—as the seeds of a doomed relationship are revealed. This stroll down memory lane enriches the memories of his later novels as well as helping explain Hole’s alcoholism, and his contemplative and melancholic persona. Reading series novels out of sequence can be somewhat disconcerting, The Bat is perhaps more of a thriller per se than his later work, which are firmly rooted in the conventions of the police procedural.
Harry Hole finds himself in Australia investigating the murder of a Norwegian tourist Inger Holter, a former TV presenter. Though it is little surprise to find Nesbo soon providing some social commentary, as is common with his Nordic / Scandinavian crime-writing colleagues. Harry Hole reflects upon the social history of Australia when he is partnered with Sydney policeman, Andrew Kensington: an ex-Boxer, and most interestingly—born of Aboriginal origin. It seems that the Norwegian tourist Inger Holter was a victim of a serial killer, one who preys on fair-haired women; rape and strangulation being this killer’s Modus Operandi.
The translation is smooth as one would expect from the deeply talented Don Bartlett. Even at this debut stage, the Harry Hole novels are visceral, and The Bat is no exception as it features Nesbo’s theatrical Grand Guginol set-pieces. Not for the feint of heart, but an incisive thriller that again looks into the dark heart of evil set against the back-drop of social mores, and convention. The biggest draw is discovering what makes Hole the detective he is, and how Nesbo contrasts the darkness with humor making the journey bearable. Though perhaps not as mature or as complex as Nesbo’s later work, this is balanced by discovering Hole’s back-story making this thriller riveting for lovers of European crime-fiction.