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The Redbreast: A Novel (Harry Hole Series) Paperback – January 31, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 839 customer reviews
Book 1 of 8 in the Oslo Sequence Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shifting effortlessly between the last days of WWII on the Eastern front and modern day Oslo, Norwegian Nesbø (The Devil's Star) spins a complex tale of murder, revenge and betrayal. A recovering alcoholic recently reassigned to the Norwegian Security Service, Insp. Harry Hole begins tracking Sverre Olsen, a vicious neo-Nazi who escaped prosecution on a technicality. But what starts as a quest to put Olsen behind bars soon explodes into a race to prevent an assassination. As Hole struggles to stay one step ahead of Olsen and his gang of skinheads, Nesbø takes the reader back to WWII, as Norwegians fighting for Hitler wage a losing battle on the Eastern front. When the two story lines finally collide, it's up to Hole to stop a man hell-bent on carrying out the deadly plan he hatched half a century ago in the trenches. Perfectly paced and painfully suspenseful, this crime novel illuminates not only Norway's alleged Nazi ties but also its present skinhead subculture. Readers will delight in Hole, a laconic hero as doggedly stubborn as Connelly's Harry Bosch, and yet with a prickly appeal all his own. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“An elegant and complex thriller . . . Ingenious design. . . . Harrowingly beautiful scenes.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.” (Washington Post Book World)

“Reading THE REDBREAST is like watching a hit movie. Author Jo Nesbo’s scenes are so vivid that you can imagine them playing across the big screen. The pacing is swift. The plot is precise and intricate. The characters are intriguing.” (USA Today)

“Exciting, witty, melancholy and thought-provoking.” (Daily Telegraph (London))

“Paced to grip and twiddle with your insides, this is a fine thriller.” (Sunday Sport)

“Original…demands concentration but it’s worth the effort.” (Literary Review)

“Shifting effortlessly between the last days of WWII on the Eastern front and modern day Oslo, Norwegian Nesbø spins a complex tale of murder, revenge and betrayal. . . . Perfectly paced and painfully suspenseful.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“[A] bold, ambitious thriller.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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Product Details

  • Series: Harry Hole Series (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061134007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061134005
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (839 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel W. Hays on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Those who follow mysteries are aware that some of the most intriguing works in that genre have been coming out of Scandinavia in recent years. Not least among these has been the work of Jo Nesbo, who lives in Oslo, Norway. His stories about police detective Harry Hole have garnered high praise. In fact, "The Redbreast" was voted the best Norwegian crime novel ever written by members of Norwegian book clubs.<
It's easy to see why, literally from the opening moments of the book. The pace is leisurely, but perfectly cadenced. The detail is carefully chosen, the revelations of character and depth drawn in easy strokes. This has to be attributed in part to translator Don Bartlett, but one must assume it was there in the first place.<
The book is set in the present, but its events cover a good deal of time. They go back to World War II, a time when some young Norwegian men willingly fought for Hitler. The plot includes the story of a war hero as well. So out-of-control and alcoholic Hole is plunged into a mystery whose elements reach far and wide.<
Hole is a wonderful, rich creation. And so is the villain in this book.<
"The Redbreast" is an ambitious book, a mystery, thriller, and serious work of literature combined. The fact that it is highly successful in each of its modes makes it the best thriller of the year - from any country.
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Format: Paperback
I'm hooked. I started reading The Redbreast on President's Day weekend and at first was skeptical. The tale seemed to bounce from one era--the present--back to the 1940s, and then back to the 1990s again, for no real reason. Until the characters wormed their way into my consciousness and the stories of WWII and the story of 1999 began to come together, that is. Wow! I stayed up nearly all night, unable to put this down. Nesbo creates real people in her characters, whose thoughts, no matter how horrific, are made understandable to the reader along with their passions, their fears and their hurts. I consider this not only a major contribution to the mystery/police thriller genres, but to the psychological and character-driven best works of Barbara Vine. This story creeps up on you without your being aware of it. Before you know it, you MUST discover what is going on and what will happen next. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
The Redbreast is an exceptionally well-crafted and atmospsheric novel weaving the skein of two storylines together, one concerning Norwegians who joined the Waffen SS in WWII and fought on the Eastern Front believing they were defending their country from Soviet annexation, and the other a murder mystery involving neo-Nazi's in modern Oslo. The contemporary murder is investigated by Norwegian Police Inspector Harry Hole and the puzzling case begins to lead Harry into a dark era of Norwegian history and he finds that to solve the mystery in the present he must first solve a baffling mystery from WWII. The author, Jo Nesbo, makes stunningly good use of his plot to show that the past is much more complicated and complex than it is often presented later and personal ethical, moral, and political choices in a confused time can lead righteous men in different directions.

I was extremely excited to get this book after reading the blurb on Amazon. A murder mystery, set partially in modern Norway (a beautiful country I would love to visit) and partially on the Eastern front during WWII, covering both real Nazis and neo-Nazis, seemed like it could be a great read. I haven't been as excited to get a book by a new author in a long time actually. When I received the book and read the dust cover I got even more excited...apparently this book was voted "the best Norwegian crime novel EVER". As if that were not enough, apparently Jo Nesbo is a well-regarded pop music talent in Europe with several top ten hits and is also an economist. My wife noted that he was also exceptionally good-looking. I decided, with a little effort, to not hold all of this spectacular over-achievement against Nesbo, and just try to enjoy the book. I jumped Redbreast to the front of the crowded reading queue and got started.
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Format: Paperback
I share many of the enthusiastic reactions of other reviewers of this novel. As a writer and storyteller, Nesbo is way in front of the recent Scandinavian masters of the genre who have, in my view, produced the best police procedurals in the last generation, though I find Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallender procedurals), the reigning champion of the genre, tedious. But Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, of some decades ago, still reign supreme.

Nesbo has some first-order talents: his characters are leanly drawn, yet complex; his story telling skills are masterful: the scenes of violence, for instance, are unexpected and devastating -to the reader as well as to the victims, and sometimes to the perpetrator. (Nesbo seems is more comfortable with violence than with tenderness, but maybe that's a weakness of the genre--and of his hero, Henry Hole.

In the end, unfortunately, the very richness and complexity of the plot paralyze the story. The denouement seemed contrived and self-conscious. The plot device used to convince the reader that the villain of the piece could be one and the same with one of its most noble characters was fatally unconvincing. The extensive `confession' of the culprit had a flatness that seemed entirely unsuited to the character and somehow vulgarized the entire experience. Part of the problem, I think, was that Nesbo had too much complexity to unravel at the end. There were too many important characters, all with much the same experiences, and with some pretending to be someone else, reducing the huge machine of a plot to a crawl for the final 50 pages

Moreover, some of the twists and turns seemed superfluous and distracted from the central story's momentum. Why for example did he need to introduce Sofia at all?
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