Harry Hole, the archetype of the troubled Nordic detective, is chasing a deviously clever serial killer, albeit from outside of the police force, in Killing Moon – the thirteenth thriller in the much-loved series by Jo Nesbo.
Legendary detective Harry Hole’s plan of drinking himself to death in faraway Los Angeles gets interrupted when an old lady he has come to care about needs his help to stay alive. Meanwhile, the corpse of a beautiful young woman – one of the two that went missing recently – turns up bearing the marks of a serial killer in Oslo, and the absence of Harry means a meagre chance of the killer getting caught. The only suspect the police have – a filthy-rich magnate known for his philandering ways who had hosted the party both women had attended before they disappeared – protests his innocence vehemently and wants to commission his own parallel investigation by a renowned detective. The only person fitting the ‘renowned detective’ tag is Harry, who refuses the job straightaway but is forced to relent when the nasty people to whom Harry’s friend – the old lady – owes an astronomical sum set a ten-day deadline for repayment, the non-adherence to which would mean an agonising death.
Thus, Harry comes home to Oslo – and to the demons he is desperate to be rid of – with less than ten days to catch a serial killer, assembles a ragtag team comprising a drug-peddling taxi driver, a suspended cop, and a psychologist on his deathbed, and gets to work. While his old colleagues welcome Harry’s involvement, the bosses detest the intrusion and are eager for an excuse to ban and punish him. With the investigation going nowhere, the second body also is found with similar signs of assault, and the scant clues point – contrary to his intuition – towards Harry’s own client. Soon, the killer strikes again, and Harry’s failure to catch him before the looming deadline would mean – in addition to any number of the killer’s future victims – the torturous death of an old woman and that of his own at the hands of a sadistic hitman.
Harry Hole – one of the most admired lead characters in crime fiction for a long time now – is as riveting in his latest outing as ever. With nothing left to live for, he tries to drown himself in alcohol but pauses his suicidal drinking to do a good deed, which brings him back to the last place on earth that he wants to be in. His seesawing battle with the bottle as he forces himself to stay sober and sharp until he succeeds in his purpose is poignant. The remaining characters, irrespective of the size of their roles, are painstakingly etched and demand the reader’s attention – especially Katrine Bratt of Oslo Police, Alexandra Sturza of the Forensic Institute, and the dapper Sung-Min Larsen of Kripos. Harry’s motley troop – again expertly rendered by the master – provides several much-needed light moments with its banter while contributing immensely to the exhilarating pursuit. The killer, perhaps the most viciously cunning and deranged of all the Nesbo’s psychos that I have seen, is nightmarish. The plot moves at a perfect, simmering pace, with plenty of revelations and red herrings – and a vital dose of scary science – that make the book impossible to put down despite its above-average volume. True to his reputation, Nesbo provides graphic descriptions of the killer’s brutality that may be distressing for the weak-hearted reader. For everybody else though, Killing Moon reaffirms Jo Nesbo’s reputation as one of the greatest crime thriller authors in the world today!
Sean Kinsella’s top-notch translation makes Killing Moon an effortless read, and I wish to take a moment to thank the entire community of translators, without whose contribution the literature space – particularly the crime thriller genre – would be much poorer.
I am sincerely grateful to the fine people at Knopf Publishers / Penguin Random House and Mystery and Suspense Magazine for the Digital Review Copy of Killing Moon through NetGalley!
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