a field guide to quiet courage

literary inklings

literary inklings

notes from a bohemian library

The Bat by Jo Nesbø


More than 15 years after its original publication, The Bat, the first in Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, has been published in America, marking a unique situation: the introduction to an already popular detective series. In The Bat, young detective Harry Hole finds himself far from his native Norway – in Australia, dispatched by the Oslo police to aid in the investigation of a young Norwegian woman found murdered in Sydney. Harry’s orders are to lay low, offer what assistance he’s able, and return home. He is not supposed to form an unlikely friendship with his Aboriginal partner, embark on a tumultuous relationship with a witness, and get himself embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse with one of the city's most dangerous serial killers. But when the stakes are raised and the faceless killer takes a personal interest in Harry, the detective so geographically out of his waters will do whatever it takes to unravel the mystery. I think the thing that struck me as the most interesting about The Bat was the way Nesbø mixed the classic atmosphere of a detective story with the complexities and nuances of literary styling. While the basic principles of the novel are rooted in the longstanding history of the mystery genre, Nesbø’s unique insights and attention to detail bring something noticeably original to this book. The Australian setting was so vivid, full of intrigue (and danger) that it felt like a character all its own, and the distinct characteristics that appear in the novel’s Scandinavian expats – Norwegian Harry and Swedish waitress Birgitta, primarily – are delightfully entertaining as contrasts. The mixing of these two universally different cultures created such an original environment that every new scene felt rich and unpredictable.

This being my first Harry Hole mystery, I can’t say how the character is different (if indeed he is) from Nesbø’s later novels, but it seems like he’s represented here as being something of a fledgling in his career – yet one who, we come to figure out, has already seen his share of the unforgiving tragedy that comes with the job. I enjoyed Harry as a protagonist immensely; his unexpected humor was charming. I had anticipated a perhaps stereotypically melancholic, depressed, relatively reclusive man brooding along the pages, and while certain events in the novel may lead him to yet such a fate, it was refreshing to witness him in this stage. I can’t talk much about the rest of the characters without wanting desperately to give elements of the plot away, but I thoroughly enjoyed the absolutely diverse cast that Harry interacts with. I felt very connected to all of his relationships throughout the book, which is certainly one of the magic keys that keep a good detective series running. This, combined with an intriguing story, genuinely exciting setting, and plot twists that I had never anticipated made The Bat a cerebral, stylish suspense novel that easily explains why Nesbø and his clever, one-of-a-kind detective have garnered praise from readers all over the world.

Title: The Bat (Harry Hole #1) Author: Jo Nesbø Genre: mystery Publisher: Vintage (US Paperback) Release date: July 2, 2013 (US Paperback) Source: Personal collection Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble Connect with the author: Website

The Bat: The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel