'The Redeemer is the fourth book in translation by Jo Nesbo and he captures our imagination with this book by bringing us readers into the storyline twelve years prior to the main plot. We start with the rape of a fourteen year old girl that takes place at a Salvation Army summer camp in Norway. Although we know there was a rape we are not given clues who committed this act or disclosure of the victim. In a second separate event we are also given the story of a young Croatian boy caught up in history of Croatia and it's political cruelties his known by others as the little redeemer.
Current Day: Oslo, shots ring out at a Christmas Concert, a volunteer dressed as a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. Less than an hour later Inspector Harry Hole is at the crime scene and with hardly any leads to go on, he hunts for his faceless killer. Harry's luck is about to change, the current snow storm that has hit Oslo has grounded flights. Stranded, the Killer looks for a place to stay while trying to keep a low profile, but as the cold night draws on he also discovers he made a fatal mistake, his shot the wrong man! With his contract job still pending he makes the most of his time in Oslo and decides to finish his work. He takes refuge for a while with the Salvation Army trying to hide behind the seamy side where dope heads sell their clothes even if it could mean life or death in a freezing city. As twisted events unfold Harry suddenly finds himself looking for two types of psychopaths an assassin and a rapist; on the wintry streets of Oslo it suddenly becomes an increasing desperate situation for all.
I agree with much of what was said in this book by the other glowing reviews. Harry is an interesting character with a many quirks and personal conflicts, and the plot kept moving with a lot of interesting twists and turns along the way.
However, Nesbo relies too much on fantastic coincidences to keep his plots going. The majority of the book consists of a contract killer trying to hit his target and just missing because of some unbelievable coincidence, and the police trying to capture the contract killer and just missing, again because of some unbelievable coincidence. In the middle of the book, both the killer and his intended victim remark on how the experience is like some surreal nightmare that just repeats itself over and over, and as a reader forced to buy unlikely event after unlikely event I could sympathize completely.
The most irritating example of this lazy plotting is that whenever a character finds something out that could crack the case wide open, he or she invariably dies before contacting Hole. Using this kind of cheap plot device makes it easy to prolong the suspense for over 400 pages, but as a reader I felt like I was jerked around unnecessarily. Nesbo did manage to provide a satisfying ending that answered all of the questions raised along the way, but the too-convoluted plotting took away a good part of the enjoyment.
In sub zero temperatures on a busy Oslo pedestrian street the Salvation Army sing to the Christmas shoppers as a shot rings out and one of their group falls to the ground with a single shot to the forehead. The professional who fired the shot disappears into the crowd, heading for the airport and his flight home to Zagreb but the weather isn't on his side and all flights are cancelled. Being forced to stay a further night in Oslo, he is still there when the newspapers report the death and name the man - a man who was not his target.
From the first couple of chapters, I could not put this book down as I was drawn into an intricate, well plotted storyline that kept me guessing right to the end. Having never been to Oslo or indeed any of the Scandinavian countries, the authors depiction made it easy to imagine the location. The characters are incredibly well written; Inspector Harry Hole, a cop with a history and demons (as they always seem to be in crime novels) is so much more than that and is a terrific character with depth and someone you want to know more about. The hitman is also brilliantly portrayed and the author takes you with him into the seedier side of Oslo as he seeks refuge as the net tightens. All of the characters have detail and depth, even the lesser ones.
This is the first book I've read by Jo NesbÝ and I can't recommend it highly enough, I didn't realise when I bought it that it was the fourth in the Harry Hole series to be translated into English and I had no problem reading it without having read the previous ones, but I'll certainly be going back and reading them now.