118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
When it comes to crime fiction, I'm not an easy mark. I look for intricate but credible plots, well-developed characters, richly drawn settings, and lean dialog that compliments and develops the story, the characters and the setting, rather than as a misplaced prop which tries to make the hero some kind of cross between Chris Rock and Dirty Harry. So when I say that you should do whatever it takes to find a copy of Jo Nesbo's "The Devil's Star", and "The Redbreast" that precedes it, trust me that is worth the extra effort and extra bucks. (Neither of these novels, originally published in Norway and later translated to English by Don Bartlett and published in England are easily - or cheaply - found).
"The Devil's Star" starts brilliantly - the journey of a drop of water through a century-old Oslo apartment building that ends with one of the most original renderings of a murder discovery that I can remember. This cleverly told opening sets a literary and mystery high bar that never lets up and never betrays the author's implicit promise to the reader of an intelligent, complex, and appropriately brutal Scandinavian crime masterpiece. It is an unusually hot summer in Oslo, and most of the population, including the police force, is on holiday when a young woman is found dead in her apartment - one finger short and a red star-shaped diamond inserted under an eyelid. Harry Hole, the renegade Oslo inspector introduced in "The Redbreast" is assigned to the case with his nemesis, top brass-favorite Tom Waaler. To say the Hole has fallen on hard times is like observing Norwegian winters may get chilly - he is in an alcoholic stupor, despondent, suicidal, barely functional, and alone - the result of his obsession with the crimes he's certain Waaler committed in the preceding novel. When a second body shows up, similarly desecrated and adorned, it is feared that Oslo has a serial killer on their hands, setting the stage for an epic tale of crime and deception, of demons real and demons imagined.
Nesbo's Harry Hole is the maverick cop we've all seen many times before - unconventional and anti-bureaucracy, an alcoholic who is perpetually one step or one day or one punch away from a forced retirement. But from the talented Nesbo's pen, Hole takes on depth and baggage beyond the common - the tragic hero whose obsessions win the reader's empathy while driving those close to him further away while his unorthodox methods and atypical supporting cast unravel the puzzle - or in this case, a veritable smorgasbord of puzzles. For in a somewhat unusual twist, unresolved and nearly forgotten threads of "Redbreast" show up here, where they are taken decidedly and decisively to truly chilling, suspenseful, and ultimately redeeming conclusion.
So like I mentioned - this is crime fiction about as good as it gets. Intelligent and convoluted in a totally consumptive way, with twists and turns and clever head fakes - that rare novel that will have you scratching your head and re-reading passages - fiction that will have you rushing to get to the end while hoping it never does. Do yourself a favor and find a copy of both of Nesbo's translated works - if you're like me you'll be hoping this talented young author keeps writing and finds a US publisher.
228 of 240 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2006
This is a complex thriller set in Norway with an unusually intricate plot and an exceptionally well developed main character --I purchased this in Scotland and finished it within a little more than a day. This is is in the same genre as the stories written by Henning Mankell in the Kurt Wallender series. I would rate this story dealing with a serial killer on a par with Mankell's best. The suspense grinds away and the plot has multiple twists which keep the reader constantly on edge. I am purposely writing a very general review so as not to give away the many twists of this great mystery --it just never lets up and the quality of the writing is superb. This is a s[pecial accomplishment as the story is translated into English. This book far surpasses writings by Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke and even some of Mankell's work.
79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2010
Extra Information: The first two books for this Harry Hole series The Bat Man and The Cockroaches have not been produced for translation at this time. The Redbreast: A Novel would be the third book in this series; if you were to start this series my recommendation would be from The Redbreast. The series then follows through in order with Nemesis: A Novel (Harry Hole) The Devil's Star and finally The Redeemer (A Harry Hole Mystery) which then brings us readers to all things wintry, dark days, sub zero temperatures, icy chills, the release of The Snowman March 2010.
Review - The Devil's Star (Harry Hole Fifth book)
The Devil's Star is a contemporary modern day crime plot with all its darker elements, filled with emotion, fast paced, suspenseful, the puzzle grips, builds, festers and twists keeping the mind ticking over until the very end. The author Jo Nesbø brings us into his opening scene, Oslo, current day a young women has been found murdered in her Oslo flat, shot, Index finger removed and a curious tiny diamond shaped like a five pointed star placed behind her eyelid. An unsteady Detective Harry Hole is sent over to investigate the situation. Days later another young women goes missing in broad daylight no body found, but Bjarne Møller Harry's boss receives her severed finger in the post. Only when a third womens body is found with the same signature as victim one, severed finger, small five pointed star behind the eye, the investigation turns quickly into a serial killer hunt.
Harry's pervious assignment working for sometime on the Ellen Gjelten case his ex murdered partner, but to no advance, finally case closed but not to Harry he had departmental suspicions but lacked any proof forcing him once again to fall deeply off the wagon. Bjarne Møller who had saved Harry's job so many times had no choice but to tell him final notice was to be served but first with holiday staffing issues, he'd be placed on the serial killer case as priority before he left. The situation was about to get worst as his partnered with Tom Waaler the police forces golden-boy, there are no alternatives. With a serial killer at large personal issues needed to be put to one side, even with Harry's darker state of mind he functions better under pressure and was onto a new lead, he has nothing to lose and his presence makes others feel unnerved, more than one person is about to lose control.
As the saying goes "Things happen in threes" great things in the form of The Redbreast, Nemesis and here we have my personal favorite The Devil's Star, fifth book in this series this is certainly a book that really makes you think and question which is what I love. My thoughts even wondered If the author wrote subconsciously, Intentional or it could just be a fantastic coincidence or fate, book numbering and story-line? The Devil's star was officially the only book published out of sequence and the first one I read around 2006, this roller coaster sits behind The Redbreast and Nemesis, I have recently re-read all in order and its been marvellous. Reading in order always has the edge but this is not to say you couldn't just pick this book or any of the others and just read, although it's a guarantee reading one your be reaching for others, best take it from the top.
Jo Nesbø gives us another teasing puzzle with lots of clever plot twists. The stories are fascinating to read, constantly moving forward and the plots interwoven with smaller stories throughout bringing in the old and new characters along the way keeping everything fresh with the right pace, suspense, tension and interest.
This author is very descriptive and he pays attention to detail this time his given us a bit more of Oslo more so in this book than any other, building pictures great visuals which are very clear. The author reflects on a changing city, the amount of reconstruction that has taken place in Oslo and does it work! He talks of the history of older buildings from the opening pages all the way through. The subject reoccurs as trendy motifs contemporary modern designs new apartments or grand designs like student buildings go up around the city and the question is do they fit in? This may seem a familiar question to most of us as we look at our own cities and wonder does it actually add or take something away?
The author also has incredible observation of people, character building, all are well drawn and interesting Harry Hole and Tom Waaler set out to antagonize each other, these two grippingly twist and turn the story inside out. Beate Lonn with her photographic memory and passed abusive history with Tom Waaler. Harry himself is the most compelling character to read, you can tell in the dream/nightmare sequences written that all parts of his life are crossing over. His state of mind in this book is rock bottom his work is corrupt but evidence is nowhere to be found; Bjarne Møller his boss is at his wits-end with him. In the five stages of life Harry has taken stage three with force, anger, sadness, low self esteem, low expectations, self hate, guilt, alcohol fuels his depression leaving him suffering fear and anxiety. His love of his life Rakel doesn't know how to deal with him and is trying to hang on but the only way forward for Harry is too face his fears in all areas and become a stronger person for it, the only one who can help Harry would be himself.
Jo Nesbø adds humour into his novels that never escapes my notice, it translates into an English dry sense of humour and it works well with everything else going on. All loose ends and plots tie up and come to a fast paced conclusion even cleaning up an outstanding situation from the first two books.
Love this author work, all books are favourites but this one grabbed me way back in 2006 and stayed with me and I always mention it to people looking for something new. This Author certainly has a passion for a thriller. The Redemmer is next in line one which I have already reviewed, so next in line for me would be The Snowman March 2010 and judging by the product description it sounds even darker than The Devil's star, can't wait!
The Devil Star comes Highly Recommended. Also adding here a thank you to Don Bartlett for the clear translation in the series.
62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
This is the first and only book in this series that I've read. It received outstanding reviews, so I was interested. I found the first half of the book -- the introduction to the police detective Harry Hole, the murders, the allusions to things that happened in the past, things that obsessed Hole -- gripping. I wanted to know what happened and how Hole would discover who did it. But there is so much going on in this novel that during the second half I began to lose some of my interest: the book just didn't feel as compelling to me as it started out to feel. Probably some of my feeling that the drive of the book dissipated is due to the fact that are many things crammed into the book. Then, too, it's difficult to sympathize unendingly with a detective who's in an alcoholic stupor throughout most of the story: one's patience and interest wear thin. I began to crave something different, not more of the same drunkenness.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
When I started reading this book I quickly found three reasons why I probably wasn't going to like it.
For starters, 'The Devil's Star' is book five of Nesbo's Harry Hole series and they probably should be read in order. I didn't and I spent the first third of the book trying to figure out what was part of the main story and what was back story.
Second, the book starts with two cases that, at first glance seemed rather mundane. For a while I was wondering where this book could possibly go that was remotely interesting. Fortunately I got my answer.
Finally, Harry Hole is an alcoholic with all the self-destructive habits that go with it. Some people can relate to this and find it an enjoyable part of the story. I'm not one of them. I know that noir fiction, be it Nordic or otherwise, requires a flawed protagonist but sometimes I just want to slap him upside the head and scream 'Get your [$...] together, already!'
I know I've just given you three reasons not to read this book but, if you don't read it, you are making a really, really big mistake. Nesbo shows his transcendent writing skill in the first scene and it continues throughout the entire book. When I first saw the movie 'Jaws' in the theater I yanked my legs up onto my seat when the shark jumped out of the water. Never until now has a book had that affect on me. In 'Devil's Star' there are several scenes that are so visceral that I reared back from the page.
Once I was hooked I spent the majority of a camping trip glued to it. At one point the likely killer was identified, the police were closing in and I was perfectly content to chalk this one up as a really good read. It was then that I realized that a full third of the book remained and that the rollercoaster ride the book had turned into still had several twists in store.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is my first experience with Jo Nesbo's books and it definitely will not be the last.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I picked up this novel with great anticipation. Michael Connelly referred to Jo Nesbo as his new favorite thriller writer and his lead character, Harry Hole, his new hero. With praise like that , I was eager to dive in.
Ultimately, I was not disappointed. "The Devil's Star" is the third in the Harry Hole series (there are now 5 available, internationally). Set in Oslo, Norway, Harry Hole is your classic tragic figure who could have stepped right off the pages of a Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane novel. He portrays the classic noir sensibilities --- tough-nosed, bad at long-term relationships, hard-drinking, violent, self-hating, etc. I liked him immediately!
In this novel, Harry is called into action after a 4-week 'leave of absence' because a young woman has been found murdered in mysterious fashion. With the assistance of the crack CSI squad, evidence is found that a pentagram was left on the body and a finger was removed. When additional bodies turn up, all with pentagrams or Devil's Stars found on or near the body (in addition to a finger being removed) the team realizes they have a serial killer on their hands.
To complicate matters, the lead investigator on this series of murders, Tom Waaler, is suspected by Harry of being part of an underground weapons/stolen merchandise ring and may have been responsible for the murder of Harry's former partner. As the novel gets deeper into the investigation, and as Harry puts himself firmly within Waaler's line of fire, the two mysteries begin to converge. The result is that the truth may cost Harry more than his job and reputation and his life and those of the few people close to him are quickly put in peril.
This novel works best during the serial killer investigation. The writing is quick and to-the-point while at the same time digging deep into the layers of complexity that a serial killer investigation calls for. The only place where the novel stumbles is when things turn more towards the illicit background of Waaler and the focus seems to go askew. I appreciate the need for Hole to have a driving force for bringing down Waaler, but would have rather seen that as part of a separate novel and had "The Devil's Star" just focus on the serial killer investigation. Still, an above-average thriller that has me eagerly waiting to crack the seams of another Harry Hole novel.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to have kicked open the door for more Scandinavian imports, the latest of which is The Devil's Star, by Jo Nesbo. From what I gather, Nesbo is something like the Norwegian Michael Connolly, and his series featuring Detective Harry Hole has a lot in common with Connolly's Harry Bosch novels.
The Devil's Star finds Hole at the bottom of the barrel. Events in previous novels have left him perpetually drunk and about to lose his job until a new and disturbing serial killer puts Hole back on the job and perhaps on the path to personal redemption.
For the most part, The Devil's Star is a very enjoyable mystery. Nesbo has a real talent for creating compelling characters, and he certainly set a brisk pace with this one. Harry Hole is a fascinating character, like Connolly's Harry Bosch but way (way) more self-destructive), and his nemesis on the force is just as interesting. My chief complaint is that Nesbo used way too many false leads. By the time the real killer was revealed I almost didn't care. I'm not sure if something was lost in the translation, but the dialogue also seemed a bit awkward.
It's not without flaws, but The Devil's Star is a promising start to the Harry Hole series, and it was more than interesting enough to have me checking out future volumes. If you're a fan of hard-edged police/detective fiction along the lines of Michael Connolly, you'll want to give Jo Nesbo a try.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Ever since Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire), I have been looking for a good Scandinavian crime-fiction. Finally I felt I found the author who is as good as Larsson, or even better. Lisbeth Salander is a great character, but I don't think Blomkvist is interesting enough in The Millennium trilogy. Nesbo's Harry Hole is complex and a lot more interesting than Larsson's Blomkvist. He is rather hard-boiled.
In this the Devil's Star, Oslo police inspector Harry was obsessed with the dirty cop Tom Waaler who was responsible for the death of Harry's partner. He got drunk again and almost got fired. Then, the strange killing started. A serial killer cuts off each victim's finger and leaves a star-shaped red diamond.
The plot is multifaceted, and fast paced. You really don't know what is going on until the last parts. It was one of the best crime-fictions I have read this year.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Jo Nesbo's `The Devil's Star' is a police thriller with an unusual twist: it's set in Oslo, the capital of Norway.
Harry Hole is the protagonist of the novel. He's a celebrated cop, a rejected lover and father, and a drunk.
Hole's latest case involves a serial killer in the normally quiet city of Oslo, hard by the ocean in southern Norway. First one, then another, and then a third woman turns up either dead or missing. The bodies of the women that are found have two things in common; a pretty, five-sided red diamond is placed somewhere in the body, and there's a finger missing.
This is a gritty novel, set in one of the most picturesque cities in the world. (I've been to Oslo twice and it is very pretty, friendly, and definitely worth a visit. However, a crime hot-spot it isn't. When I was there, the lead story on the news was the robbery of a convenience store. That made the national news.) There's a major twist towards the end of the book, disturbing violence and unpleasant characters in the book. Hole may be a cop, and an excellent one at that, but he's made a number of enemies on the force, and they may be out to get him.
Overall, I enjoyed Nesbo's novel. It is a bit convoluted at times, and the Norwegian names are a bit hard to pronounce and remember. I guess my main difficulty was a discord between detective Hole's supposed excellence, and his downright ineptitude and incompetence he shows when he's been drinking, which he does for half of the novel. I just couldn't believe Hole was some great insightful genius when he was a totally repellent alcoholic for much of the novel. It just wasn't believable to me that he could change from a falling-down drunk on one page, and then a few pages later, he was some preternaturally analytical mind.
The ending of the book was a tense ride while Hole is hunted by his enemies, as he is closing in on the killer.
Three stars for `The Devil's Star'. I'd recommend it for a nice introduction to Norway, Oslo, Norwegian history, and a pretty good detective yarn as well. Recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2013
I was hopeful and therefore disappointed. I don't expect to read another book by this author. The plot of _The Devil's Star_ crawls by inches for the entire first half, and although the pace does pick up later, by that time I already knew who the killer was, so the pacing still seemed tedious. The solution to the central mystery is actually fairly obvious (especially if you're ever read, for instance, _And Then There Were None_) and that makes it hard to suspend belief--in other words, these detectives seemed pretty stupid to me, yet we're supposed to accept that they're famously brilliant.
Other reviewers have mentioned that there are far too many minor characters. What's worse, most of these characters only appear in their own disconnected chapters--each of them takes the stage and steals the point of view for a moment, then vanishes forever. Granted, these disjointed episodes can probably be explained or decoded by a careful re-reading the book--but who really cares? It's easier to accept that a lot of distraction is going on, so the reader won't think about the plot too much. A better alternative would be to delete about a third of this book and to limit the P.O.V. to that of the working cops.
Unlike some of the negative reviewers here, I did actually make it all the way to the end of _The Devil's Star. Unfortunately, that means I can also tell you that the most important clue in this book--the one that allows Harry Hole to confront the killer with "proof" in the end--turns out to be a ridiculous impossibility. I guess I shouldn't toss major spoilers around, but this clue involves a certain object being hidden in a certain location; and the truth is that object won't exactly fit into that location--not without falling out it won't. And if you've read this book and liked it and want to challenge me on this point, let me quickly add that there wasn't just one of these objects hidden there, but two of them.
The last thing I'll lament is the really poor handling of action scenes--yes, there are a couple of them. There's one scene in an elevator that's all but incomprehensible. Granted, the book has been translated; the original norsk version might be much better. On the other hand, there's another scene where Hole is also in jeopardy--in fact it seems like curtains for poor Harry--but the next thing we know, that scene is simply over, the danger having been resolved somehow, off camera, with no explanation. My best guess is the "bad guy" in this scene must have jumped out the window, but the author forgot to mention it. I guess I'll never really know what happened but, again, it's easy not to care.