The Bat by Jo Nesbø
Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on July 2, 2013 (originally published 1997)
Series: Harry Hole, #1
Genre(s): fiction, crime, mystery, suspense, thriller
Format & Pages: e-book, 331
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Before Harry took on the neo-Nazi gangs of Oslo, before he met Rakel, before The Snowman tried to take everything he held dear, he went to Australia. Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction.
I was warned before starting The Bat that both this and Cockroaches, the first two books in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, are slower and different in content than the rest of the series and they seem to be most readers’ least favorites of the bunch. After finishing The Bat, I’m so glad to have had the aforementioned warning, because without it, I’d be sitting here wondering, What’s so great about this series that everyone seems to love it so much?
Although I enjoyed getting to know Harry Hole, this story wasn’t as engrossing as I would have liked. The plot moved along at a leisurely pace even during action scenes, and most of the characters seemed fairly simple and two dimensional. I also found it a bit strange that the author chose to start the series by putting a Norwegian detective on a plane to Australia and set the entire book down under.
That being said, I really liked how Nesbo set his scenes and incorporated a fair bit of Australian folklore into the story to create an atmosphere. Placing a character outside of his element can be a great way to introduce details about him that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know. And this was an excellent introduction to Harry Hole and his backstory. His witty, snappy dialogue and endless movie references only served to deepen my affection for him.
Ultimately, I’m glad that I read The Bat if for nothing more than to get a fuller understanding of Harry’s character. I will be continuing on with this series and look forward to see how it develops.