Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

In the middle of a long hot summer in Oslo, a young woman's body is found murdered in her flat, with one finger cut off and a tiny five pointed star diamond beneath her eyelid.

Detective Harry Hole is a chronic alcoholic, on the verge of being sacked from the police force; but it's summer, everyone's on holidays and his boss has no choice but to assign the case to Harry and his colleague Tom Waaler. Harry doesn't trust Tom and suspects him of, amongst other things, arms smuggling. Harry's drinking problem is greatly exacerbated by his guilt and distress over the death of his work partner, who he suspects was killed by Tom and despite his objections and his chronic drinking, he has to stay on the case.

A woman is then reported missing and the only clue is her severed finger wearing a ring with the same sort of star-shaped red diamond and everyone realises that they have a serial killer in Oslo.

As bodies continue to be discovered it seems that 5 is the common denominator: five points to the star, 5 fingers, and 5 days between each victim. Whilst Harry is determined to find this killer, and to expose Tom he finds himself on the run from the police and forced to act to protect the son of his estranged lover into the bargain.

Reading this synopsis, you can almost feel the reaction. Alcoholic policeman in trouble with his boss. A serial killer. Bizarre "clues" from the killer. Dangerous cliche ridden territory you would think, but from the opening of the book which describes the passage of water through a building from the point of view of the history of the building, through to the struggle that Harry has in handling his alcoholism, relationships, and the personal campaign he carries to expose corruption in the police force the cliches are not evident and this is a very promising debut novel.

Starting out with a disappearance, switching to the investigation of a serial killer, following the exposure of a corrupt policeman and then a final twist that is quite deftly handled taking the book from a crime fiction story to a tense thriller was clever and highly engaging. Oslo was an interesting setting with sufficient of the location provided to give some context to the story, but deftly avoiding becoming a travelogue.

Definitely an entry in the increasing list of Scandinavian crime fiction author must reads.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star - a pentagram, the devil's star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil's star is key to solving the riddle.

Review THE DEVIL'S STAR - Jo Nesbo
Karen Chisholm
Monday, October 1, 2007

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