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Nemesis. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harry Hole) Paperback – September 1, 2009
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"This tale of revenge has twists galore, and enough humanity in it to keep it grounded... A master at work" * Time Out * "A superb novel. Intricate, truly gripping plot...elegant simplicity. Bravo! - as they say in Norway" * Evening Standard * "Nesbo's storytelling abilities are incomparable" * USA Today * "Many authors know how to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Jo Nesbo's one of the few who keeps them there" * Linwood Barclay * "Nesbo sets a cracking pace... A series of spectacular plot twists leads to a thrilling finale. Highly recommended" * Guardian *
About the Author
Jo Nesbo is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Hoeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). Phantom is the seventh of Nesbo's Harry Hole novels to be translated into English. Check out www.jonesbo.co.uk.
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But then after getting past that, it's like hitting the fast-forward button. The action kicks in and the story races on a treacherous, curving road in a frenzied way that's unnerving, unpredictable and terrific. Plus Hole is a fascinating character.
Most mornings when he looks in the mirror he sees a face that's "late Picasso." He's an alcoholic struggling with his addiction, he feels it's his privilege to smoke in no-smoking areas and he's had the pleasure or misfortune to love three women in his life, mother not included. One committed suicide. The second was murdered. The third, Rakel, is in Moscow where her former husband has initiated a bitter legal dispute over the custody of their young son Oleg.
Without being much to look at, Hole nevertheless has a way of attracting women. "Two bloodshot eyes, one on each side of a large nose with a network of fine blue veins in a pale, bony face with deep pores. His wrinkles looked like random knife slashes across a wooden beam." But, hey, he's a charmer.
This time out, Hole is chasing someone the police have labeled the "Expediter," a ruthless criminal who appears to be responsible for a string of Oslo bank heists. In the first and most chilling of the robberies, the Expediter executes a bank employee when her co-worker is unable to meet a 25-second deadline to deliver the cash.
Hole also is trying to come to terms with the apparent suicide of a former girlfriend, who had called recently asking to meet. They get together at her apartment. The morning after, Hole wakes up with a vague feeling of remorse, a punishing hangover and no memory of the night before. Then he gets the news that the woman has been found dead, a gun in her hand and a bullet hole in her head.
Other old demons are dogging Hole. His relentless pursuit of the unknown person who ambushed and killed his partner and friend has become almost obsessive. That murder occurred in "Redbreast," the previous book in the series. Each of the three novels has threads woven into the next. The order in which to read them is "Redbreast," "Nemesis" and "Devil's Star."
Nesbo scatters clues like an old man feeding pigeons. He is masterly in the way he foreshadows and deceives. A severed finger, a partner with Huntington's Disease, a missing key that opens a master lock, they are all interlocking pieces to Nesbo's puzzle. He withholds important information to keep you guessing.
His plot is always coiling back on itself, with each new loop revealing another crucial fact that determines the book's ultimate outcome. You might think you've reached the resolution, but Nesbo always seems to have one more feint up his sleeve. He populates his novels with so many characters with so many secrets and whose lives, Nesbo gradually reveals, are all interwoven, all threads in one engrossing story.
The title "Nemesis" is a reference to the goddess of revenge. The need to avenge, Hole says to a colleague, is a force that drives our society. "Humanity can't live without it." In "Nemesis" the need for revenge propels the action and keeps the reader turning pages looking for the answers at the same time the characters are looking for retribution. Nesbo has written another Harry Hole thriller that's complex, provocative and extremely entertaining.
Actually the story is told by an unknown (until the last of the book) narrator looking back from the 1970's on the life of Bucky Cantor, a Jewish, 23-year-old Phys Ed teacher and playground director, who was distressed no end when some of his kids contracted polio in the hot summer of 1944. Cantor, an undersized man who had, through hard work, turned himself into a bit of a athlete, was already in a fragile state of mind because his buddies were facing danger in the military, while he had been declared 4F - not eligible to serve. Adding to his distress was his impulsive decision to join his girlfriend in the Pocono Mountains as a camp instructor; in other words, he took the escape route that many were contemplating and he had vowed not to do.
The new surroundings provide little relief for Cantor and, worse, polio follows him. Clearly, once polio hits so close to home, let alone actually infecting someone, it becomes all consuming. Cantor simply could not get over the arbitrariness of it all; what had anyone done to deserve such a fate. He rails against the forces of the world painted as being benign. To him, polio is perfect evidence of a cruel jester controlling fate. Beyond being an observer of the effects of polio, it is hard to grasp what contracting polio would mean to a person. For those, such as Cantor, who already have psychological issues, it may be nearly impossible to regain any degree of equanimity. Bitterness, self-hate, and rejection of friends and lovers - all of these reactions can find a permanent place in their psyches, not to minimize the very real physical challenges that are endured daily.
The book is an easy read and is not without its intensity. At times, it feels like a personalized documentary on a public issue. It lacks the contentiousness, wide-ranging reflection, and risqué behavior of many of the author's previous works. But readers are likely to find Bucky Cantor a sympathetic character, a good man who has suffered much.