REVIEW: POLICE BY JO NESBO

POLICE

Author: Jo Nesbo
Harvill Secker RRP $32.95
Review: Monique Mulligan

Police: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 8), Jo NesboAfter reading The Bat and Cockroaches, the first two books in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole police procedural series, I fast forwarded several books to the latest in the series, Police. While I appreciate that reading the intervening books would have added background and context to the events and new (to me) characters in Police, I made the decision that I’ll read those books when and if I can, given a still sagging review shelf. Hole, the damaged, alcoholic detective of past books, is in an entirely different space in this novel, as the reader soon finds.

After the case of a police officer slain remains unsolved several months later, the media is in a frenzy when more police officers are brutally killed. Who’s behind these crimes? Why are the victims police officers, or former police officers? With media and political pressure mounting, the Chief of Police has to get results. Fast.

Ever present in the department is the reminder of Harry Hole, for years the detective at the centre of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. Despite his flaws, his keen insights and dedication have made him legendary among his peers. Harry, however, is unable to help any more and the police are feeling the absence of this troubled but brilliant officer deeply. Will the team set up without the permission of the Chief of Police get the results everyone wants? Or will more police die as they race to protect their own and expose a killer? 

Police picks up where Phantom left off; Hole was critically injured during a shooting and readers were left wondering whether Hole would survive. Police continues that suspense by opening with a reference to the gun and person responsible, followed by the scene of a man lying under police guard in a hospital bed, not expected to live. Indeed, as the first chapter concludes, some don’t want him to live. While other plot elements are established – the police murders, a possible suspect – the identity of the dying man is left anonymous. The “is he or isn’t he?” tension is used multiple times throughout the novel before what happened to Hole is revealed; it works, but left me with the feeling I’d been very skilfully manipulated at times. It’s not the only red herring to cast its net over readers – Police is full of them and they serve their purpose of distraction and confusion well. I lost count of the twists and turns that had me thinking I was a budding detective and then realising I was a defective detective!

Although it’s dark and brutally gruesome at times, Police ticked all the boxes for a cracker of a crime read: complicated plot twists a plenty, interesting secondary characters, a complex and well-developed lead character, and buckets of tension. The ending made me catch my breath and I closed the book hoping against hope that the unfolding situation was not as dire as it appeared. Way to make the reader want more! I’ve heard that the series, like some foods, develops more flavour and complexity over time, and despite the gap between the earlier books and this latest, I can see that this praise is well earned.

Available from good bookstores and Random House. This copy was courtesy of Random House Australia.

Bookish treat: I think this was one of those nights I lost my willpower to a packet of crisps.