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Cockroaches: An Early Harry Hole Case Paperback – 2014
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With the publication of this second novel in the Harry Hole series, all 10 Hole novels are now available in the U.S. It’s disconcerting for fans to read the series out of order (we know what demons await the beleaguered Harry), but, that aside, this is a compelling, hard-edged thriller that can stand on its own. It wasn’t until the third novel, Redbreast (2007), that the series took on its classic Scandinavian noir feel; in the opener (The Bat, 2013), Hole was sent to Australia to solve a crime involving a Norwegian, and here he’s on the road again, this time to Thailand, where the Norwegian ambassador has been found dead in a Bangkok brothel. The plot is satisfyingly twisty, with Harry wandering through the city’s notorious red-light district in search of clues and tempted by the booze and drugs that will derail him throughout the series. But we also see both Harry’s almost Holmesian flair for deductive reasoning and the sensitivity that makes him vulnerable. Don’t look to the Scandinavians for read-alikes this time; rather, try John Burdett’s Sonchai Jitpleecheep series, also set in Bangkok’s morally ambiguous demimonde. --Bill Ott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"As a crime novel, The Cockroaches offers excitement to the very last straw. However, this is not the only reason it is a pleasure to read it: Jo Nesbo is a master of language." Dagsavisen (Norway)
"Creepy and gruesome. Look forward to a great read." Verdens Gang (Norway)
"The Cockroaches is surprisingly fresh, compelling and radiant with the joy of writing." Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
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Top Customer Reviews
Second the answer to: Is it worth going backwards through time to read this one?
Sent to Thailand in the hopes of being too drunk to solve a murder too sensitive to be solved, Harry indeed finds himself drunk, sweating, and out of his depth in Bangkok. The novel balances Harry's personal life, own demons and the murder mystery well. Focusing mostly on the action and intrigue (and some the most intense violence read by this reader for a while) with just enough contact with 'Sis' and Harry's father to tug at heart strings and drive Harry onward.
My only beef is that the epilogue is a little light - with so much carnage in this story one wants a little more loose end tying and (as far as I can recall) Redbreast does not confront these at all (aside from searing criticisms from various colleagues which is a common feature of Hole novels)
In short, while many may be worried that Cockroaches won't sit well with them after being further through the series, Harry's trip to Thailand has an almost episodic feel to it that prevents discombobulation from the timeline jumping. Also unlike some of the more dry Hole plots, Cockroaches mixes business with pleasure and mayhem in perfect balance.
I wish there had been a little more clarification and wrap up at the end of the book. The major points were covered but for as complex as the story was, I think it merited a bit more depth at the end.
The author takes us to exotic settings so we learn a little about the world as we become invested in the characters. This time we got to experience a bit of Thailand with a glimpse at their sex industry. I found the book hard to put down and got very little sleep a couple of nights when I should have slept before reading.
The story moves along well and Nesbo gives us plenty of colorful detail about Bangkok and its major tourist attraction, the sex business. "Everything is available," remarks Police Inspector Liz Crumley, Harry's counterpart for the murder investigation. The city is terribly overcrowded and suffocatingly hot in January as everyone complains about the heat and traffic. We're reminded of the heat throughout the book where even the mention of it seems overdone.
This is Nesbo's second Harry Hole novel. It was originally published in 1998 and republished in trade fiction last year. I noticed several typos, grammatical disconnects, and logical breaks, perhaps because the book was translated into English from Norwegian. This is not a big issue and didn't detract from my enjoyment.
The Molnes family is a strange bunch of characters. The deceased ambassador was quite wealthy and owned a furniture company in Norway. The widow Hilde Molnes is an alcoholic and has been having an affair with another Norwegian, Jens Brekke. (Atle was gay and had some bizarre sexual habits.) The Molnes daughter, Runa, has a disfigured arm and wears a prosthesis. She will come into the Molnes fortune when she turns 23 but mother Hilde will control the money until then and be able to spend it.
There are a number of twists, turns, and surprises in a rather complicated plot. It will keep you turning the pages until the exciting conclusion which stops just short of being wildly implausible.