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realjimbob

REALJimBob

Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...

The Redbreast  - Don Bartlett, Jo Nesbø My first Jo Nesbø book - in fact the first one translated into English, so the previous two books are effectively out of reach for now. It's difficult to know if this means that I've missed key background on the main character Harry Hole or not. Either way, short of learning Norwegian, there isn't much I can do about it.

Harry Hole (a name that you would never pick for an English character) is a detective in the Norwegian police, and a heavy drinker. Him and his partner are assigned to part of a protection detail for the visit of the US president and during this accidentally shoots a US secret service agent. As the Norwegian police can't admit that this was a mistake (the agent was where he shouldn't have been) they decide to give Hole a promotion instead. His new role leads him into an investigation of Norwegian Nazi groups, illegal gun running and even a cop killer before it's all over.

The book begins with quite a confusing style. Alternate chapters are set in the present and during the second world war. Chopping between the two periods like this was a challenge, lots of characters are introduced quite rapidly and then the next chapter are not mentioned again until the next time it chops back. There was a pretty good sense of continuity in the present day chapters, although there was an implication that the story with the President was going to be a key part of overall book rather than just a device to ensure Hole's promotion. I spent a chunk of the middle of the book waiting for that early story to come back to the fore again before realising it wasn't going to.

The chapters set during the war were the struggle for me I think, there was much less of a sense of continuity. I was never sure if they were running after each other or chopping around within their own time period. The dates are printed on the chapter headings, but eventually you tire of going back and checking them against previous chapter headings.

That said, once the books gets going and you've got past these issues, it's a good story. Perhaps if I'd put aside the US President story sooner and stopped worrying about how important the chapters set during the war were going to be I'd have enjoyed it even more. But it's a solid 3-stars, I liked it. Enough to read more of them...