A Harry Hole Mystery by Jo NesbÝ
Review: The Oslo police department doesn't quite know what to do with Inspector Harry Hole. A hero in the press (from solving the first case of this series), he's just a thorn in the side to his colleagues. So when the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand is found murdered, Hole's superiors see a way to get him out of the office, shipping him off to Southeast Asia to investigate, in Cockroaches, the second mystery in this series by Jo NesbÝ.
The ambassador was found in a hotel room, a knife in his back, apparently while awaiting the arrival of a prostitute. Not the kind of situation that the Norwegian government would like publicized, so one of Harry's responsibilities is to contain the news as much as possible. The local police are willing to assist in the effort, but it soon becomes clear that this is anything but a simple murder. For starters, Harry learns that the ambassador, though married, actually preferred the company of men, and possibly boys, an even worse public relations nightmare. So if he wasn't in that motel room to meet a prostitute, who arranged for her to come to his room? And why was he there in the first place? The number of people with whom the ambassador interacted was largely limited to the expatriate Norwegian population in Bangkok, not a very large number. Could one of them have killed him? It isn't long before Harry's questions begin to raise the profile of this case, something he was expressly ordered not to do.
One of the strengths of this crime novel is that Harry's investigation takes a number of credible turns, all leading down pathways that may or may not be the right one. The story, as a consequence, is fairly complicated even though (in retrospect) all the clues to the solution of the crime presented themselves to Harry (and the reader) at one point or another, though at the time it wasn't obvious they were relevant. Where Cockroaches (slightly) misses the mark is in character definition and development, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Harry has a backstory from the first book in the series, elements of which come up now and again here, but not in a manner that makes it clear how or why they matter to him. The characters he interacts with in Bangkok largely lack distinguishing features, at times seem interchangeable and are not fully realized. But the primary plot is so strong, the mystery so well devised, that this minor lack of characterization can be readily forgiven.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of Cockroaches for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Devil's Star
Harper (Hardcover), March 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061133978; ISBN-10: 0061133973
Location(s) referenced in Cockroaches: Bangkok, Thailand
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Cockroaches by Jo NesbÝ — A Harry Hole Mystery
Publisher: Vintage Crime
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: February 2014
List Price: $14.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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