THE REDBREAST - Jo Nesbo
Okay - a little housekeeping first. I can't get accented characters to work properly here ... yet. I'm working on it because it annoys me as much as it undoubtedly annoys readers of these posts.
Secondly, a little background to the Harry Hole (pronounced - we think - Hurler, but corrections from those who really know would be extremely welcome)! THE DEVIL'S STAR (released in English first) is actually number 5 in the series, THE REDBREAST (released in English second) is number 3 in the series and NEMESIS (to be released about now, so third) is actually number 4 in the series. Confused. So were the rest of us :)
On the upside the first two available books are readable out of order, although THE REDBREAST does explain Harry's situation and demeanor in THE DEVIL'S STAR.
But THE REDBREAST - well it's a wonderful book. As you often find in these wonderful, multi-layered and textural (that's textured as opposed to text) books from fabulous Scandinavian authors, we're treated to some entertainment, with an exploration of a societal problem / an itch that needs to be scratched. THE REDBREAST explores the ongoing fallout from the Second World War. That war has ramifications in the local society right up until the current day, and it's worthwhile reading THE REDBREAST just to see how the war affected other cultures, maybe countries that were much closer to the action than we were - for example - in Australia.
Nesbo is also the sort of author who is not afraid to cause the reader trauma - characters that you get close to can die, their death can involve other characters who continue on. Nothing is straight forward and nothing is constantly easy.
If this makes THE REDBREAST perhaps sound a bit too much, then it shouldn't. It's the sort of book that moves backwards and forwards between the then (1940's at War) and now (1999) as Harry investigates the existence of a very unexpected weapon, without necessarily knowing who has it or why. There are sub-plots built into the narrative as well, neo-Nazi's; drugs; all sorts of underground activities that clearly show that life these days isn't straightforward. All of those threads stack up in comparison against life in the war years - the complications of whose side to fight on, the reaction to collaborators when the war was over, the difficulties of surviving through a war, and in a time when attitudes were considerably different than they are today.
1942: Daniel, a soldier legendary among the Norwegians fighting at the Eastern front, is killed. Eighteen months later in a Vienna hospital, a wounded soldier becomes involved with a young nurse. The consequences will ripple forward to the end of the century.
1999: Having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, Harry Hole is lumbered with monitoring neo-Nazi activity; a fairly mundane assignment, until reports of a rare weapon being fired attract his interest. Meanwhile, an ex-soldier has been found with his throat cut. Pursuing both his assignment and his hunches, Harry embarks on an investigation in which he has much to gain and everything to lose.