Back to the beginning of the Harry Hole series with [b:The Bat|15986895|The Bat (Harry Hole, #1)|Jo Nesbø|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1346751777s/15986895.jpg|1994708]
– originally titled Flaggermusmannen
(see we're learning Norwegian here already). The first in the series is set in Australia, in Sydney. Harry has been sent out to assist the local police with their investigation into the murder of a Norwegian woman, Inger Holter. What starts out as a murder investigation quickly turns into a serial killer investigation and, possibly even, murder and cover up within the ranks of the investigating police force. This book has it all: lots of Australian slang (ripper use of the word rooting), clowns, red-heads and blondes, pimps, drug dealers and cricket, rape and racism, and Aboriginals. Phew.
While it's interesting to see some more of Harry's history, to be honest, there really isn't much more here than a reader would have already inferred from reading the later Oslo trilogy (books 3 to 5). Some flashbacks to his earlier years and relationships provide some colour and explain how he became an alcoholic and how he's now coping with staying clean. Maybe if I'd read this one first it would have all seemed so new, and so exciting, but until I've learnt Norwegian I have to wait until they're translated. The biggest thing I think I learnt about Harry from this novel was that the pronunciation of his name is closely to Holy than the English word Hole – I'd always thought it an odd surname.
The book just doesn't feel as layered as the later novels (especially [b:The Redbreast|7113816|The Redbreast (Harry Hole, #3)|Jo Nesbø|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1330419297s/7113816.jpg|1487876]
which if anything I thought was overly layered and just plain confusing in places). Emotionally Hole seems too accessible – his quick attachments to both Andrew and Birgitta feel to quick and too deep for the timespan of the story. Obviously Harry has to care for them both in order to drive the story, but it's something that [a:Nesbø|904719|Jo Nesbø|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1313316680p2/904719.jpg] has got better at over time. The chapters are short, very short – there are 57 of them in the book – and they get shorter as the book progresses. This seemed to create a sort of a choppy sensation in the novel where my attention was constantly having to jump about and never able to settle into a single scene. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate style decision with Nesbø or not, but again, I think it's something he's got better at in the later novels.
That's not to say this is a bad novel by any stretch. It's a good one – it's won awards and everything. I liked it, the story is excellent, the Australianisms are charming, and the plot's twists and turns had me guessing to the end. It's just a first novel and he's done better since...