The Redbreast (Harry Hole Series #3)

The Redbreast (Harry Hole Series #3)

3.9 123
by Jo Nesbo

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Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. Butwhile monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway'sdark past, when members of the government willinglycollaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later,this black mark won't

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Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. Butwhile monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway'sdark past, when members of the government willinglycollaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later,this black mark won't wash away—and disgraced oldsoldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter arebeing murdered, one by one. Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the trapsand mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. For a conspiracy is taking rapid and hideous shape around Hole . . . and Norway's darkest hour may be still to come.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
“Reading THE REDBREAST is like watching a hit movie. Author Jo Nesbo's scenes are so vivid that you can imagine them playing across the big screen. The pacing is swift. The plot is precise and intricate. The characters are intriguing.”
Literary Review
“Original…demands concentration but it's worth the effort.”
New York Times Book Review
“An elegant and complex thriller . . . Ingenious design. . . . Harrowingly beautiful scenes.”
Daily Telegraph (London)
“Exciting, witty, melancholy and thought-provoking.”
Washington Post Book World
“Certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.”
Sunday Sport
“Paced to grip and twiddle with your insides, this is a fine thriller.”
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The Redbreast is a compelling novel of war, love, and betrayal that stretches from the waning days of the Russian Front to present-day Oslo, a city perched on top of a powder keg: a restive Muslim immigrant population and a resurgent neo-Nazi movement. The wonder of this epic is that it's written within the confines of a classic crime novel.

When Harry Hole, a police detective best described as a brilliant burnout, accidentally shoots one of the president's secret service agents during a rehearsal for an upcoming summit meeting, he believes it's the end of his career. However, the politics of the moment demand a hero, not a fall guy, and Harry is promoted to inspector instead. He begins to piece together disparate threads: threats of violence on Norway's upcoming Independence Day, the illegal importation of a Marklin rifle (a favored weapon of assassins), and a murder committed outside a pizza parlor frequented by neo-Nazis.

Much more than a mystery, The Redbreast delves deeply into Norway's involvement in World War II, exposing the face-saving myth of the resistance movement and the deep-seated anger of the Russian war veterans who served as scapegoats for the national shame. A nail-bitingly suspenseful read, Nesbø's American debut is not to be missed. (Spring 2008 Selection)
Patrick Anderson
…this is a fine novel, ambitious in concept, skillful in execution and grown-up in its view of people and events. In important ways it's also a political novel, one concerned with the threat of fascism, in Norway and by implication everywhere. All in all, The Redbreast certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
"Pristinely translated by Don Bartlett, Nesbo's book eloquently uses its multiple horrors to advance a disturbing argument: suppressing history is an open invitation for history to repeat itself."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Shifting effortlessly between the last days of WWII on the Eastern front and modern day Oslo, Norwegian Nesbø (The Devil's Star) spins a complex tale of murder, revenge and betrayal. A recovering alcoholic recently reassigned to the Norwegian Security Service, Insp. Harry Hole begins tracking Sverre Olsen, a vicious neo-Nazi who escaped prosecution on a technicality. But what starts as a quest to put Olsen behind bars soon explodes into a race to prevent an assassination. As Hole struggles to stay one step ahead of Olsen and his gang of skinheads, Nesbø takes the reader back to WWII, as Norwegians fighting for Hitler wage a losing battle on the Eastern front. When the two story lines finally collide, it's up to Hole to stop a man hell-bent on carrying out the deadly plan he hatched half a century ago in the trenches. Perfectly paced and painfully suspenseful, this crime novel illuminates not only Norway's alleged Nazi ties but also its present skinhead subculture. Readers will delight in Hole, a laconic hero as doggedly stubborn as Connelly's Harry Bosch, and yet with a prickly appeal all his own. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In the latest Scandinavian crime fiction import, award-winning and best-selling Norwegian author Nesbø introduces Detective Harry Hole. A talented, dedicated detective with drinking issues, Hole is nearly as depressed and grim as Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander but closer in age and style to Ake Edwardson's Erik Winter, occasionally sporting 1980s band T-shirts, always wearing black Doc Marten combat boots, and regularly referencing popular movies. After an unfortunate incident involving an American Secret Service agent, Hole is transferred to the political unit. Left to his own devices, he investigates the purported import of a Marklin (the world's best and most expensive rifle) while keeping an eye on a neo-Nazi ex-con who recently avoided jail. A lengthy and complex story with subplots involving an old man dying of cancer and flashbacks to World War II and the role of Norwegians who fought for Hitler on the eastern front; one of the more fascinating detectives in modern crime fiction; and a well-drawn, engaging set of secondary characters make this one of the best new series of 2007. Highly recommended for all libraries. [In 2004, Norwegian book clubs voted The Redbreastas the best Norwegian crime novel ever written; the second book in Nesbø's "Oslo" trilogy, The Devil's Star, is available on Amazon UK.-Ed.]
—Jessica E. Moyer

Kirkus Reviews
A pair of assassination attempts bookend 50 years of postwar history in this bold, ambitious thriller. Oslo Detective Harry Hole's last case left him with a toxic reputation (The Devil's Star, 2006). Now he has to make a snap judgment about an unauthorized man waiting with an Uzi in the path of the visiting American president. The man he shoots turns out to be a Secret Service agent, but the Norwegian government, with no stomach for creating an international incident that might embarrass a fervent ally, promotes Harry to Inspector and boots him over to the National Security Service to keep him out of trouble. Thanks to his new posting, Harry, without at first knowing it, becomes the man most likely to foil a second assassination-this one terribly real and steeped in a series of betrayals that go back to World War II. Some of the intrigue in the dizzying series of cuts between past and present is ham-handed, and the shadowy figure variously known as Uriah (in 1944) and the Prince (in 1999) may tax some readers' patience. But it's well worth sticking with the story; both the hero and the villain are as compelling as the portrayal of Norwegians doing whatever it takes to survive the war and then paying the price. Nesbo bids fair to turn Norway into serious competition for Sweden as Scandinavia's crime center.
From the Publisher
“Nobody can delve into the dark, twisted mind of a murderer better than a Scandinavian thriller writer.”

“I place Nesbø high up on the Scandinavian mystery league.”
–Marcel Berlins, The Times

“Exciting, witty, melancholy and thought-provoking, and he is well-served by his elegant translator, Don Bartlett, whom I bet many foreign crime novelists would kill to get hold of.”
Daily Telegraph

"A page-turner you won't want to put down."
— Time Out

"Scary... culminates in a nail-biting episode with overtones of The Day of the Jackal."
— Independent

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harry Hole Series, #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Redbreast

By Jo Nesbo HarperCollins Copyright © 2007 Jo Nesbo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-113399-2

Chapter One Toll Barrier at Alnabru. 1 November 1999.

A grey bird glided in and out of Harry's field of vision. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Slow time. Somebody had been talking about 'slow time' on TV yesterday. This was slow time. Like on Christmas Eve before Father Christmas came. Or sitting in the electric chair before the current was turned on.

He drummed harder.

They were parked in the open area behind the ticket booths at the toll gate. Ellen turned up the radio a notch. The commentator spoke with reverence and solemnity.

'The plane landed fifty minutes ago, and at exactly 6.38 a.m. the President set foot on Norwegian soil. He was welcomed by the Mayor of Ullensaker. It is a wonderful autumn day here in Oslo: a splendid Norwegian backdrop to this summit meeting. Let us hear again what the President said at the press conference half an hour ago.'

It was the third time. Again Harry saw the screaming press corps thronging against the barrier. The men in grey suits on the other side, who made only a half-hearted attempt not to look like Secret Service agents, hunched their shoulders and then relaxed them as they scanned the crowd, checked for the twelfth time that their earpieces were correctly positioned, scanned the crowd, dwelled for a few seconds on a photographer whose telephoto lens was a little too long, continued scanning, checked for the thirteenth time that their earpieces were in position. Someone welcomed the President in English, everything went quiet. Then a scratching noise in a microphone.

'First, let me say I'm delighted to be here ...' the President said for the fourth time in husky, broad American-English.

'I read that a well-known American psychologist thinks the President has an MPD,' Ellen said.


'Multiple Personality Disorder. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The psychologist thought his normal personality was not aware that the other one, the sex beast, was having relations with all these women. And that was why a Court of Impeachment couldn't accuse him of having lied under oath about it.'

'Jesus,' Harry said, looking up at the helicopter hovering high above them.

On the radio, someone speaking with a Norwegian accent asked, 'Mr President, this is the fourth visit to Norway by a sitting US President. How does it feel?'


'It's really nice to be back here. And I see it as even more important that the leaders of the state of Israel and of the Palestinian people can meet here. The key to -'

'Can you remember anything from your previous visit to Norway, Mr President?'

'Yes, of course. In today's talks I hope that we can -'

'What significance have Oslo and Norway had for world peace, Mr President?'

'Norway has played an important role.'

A voice without a Norwegian accent: 'What concrete results does the President consider to be realistic?'

The recording was cut and someone from the studio took over.

'We heard there the President saying that Norway has had a crucial role in ... er, the Middle Eastern peace process. Right now the President is on his way to -'

Harry groaned and switched off the radio. 'What is it with this country, Ellen?'

She shrugged her shoulders.

'Passed Post 27,' the walkie-talkie on the dashboard crackled.

He looked at her.

'Everyone ready at their posts?' he asked. She nodded.

'Here we go,' he said. She rolled her eyes. It was the fifth time he had said that since the procession set off from Gardemoen Airport. From where they were parked they could see the empty motorway stretch out from the toll barrier up towards Trosterud and Furuset. The blue light on the roof rotated sluggishly. Harry rolled down the car window to stick out his hand and remove a withered yellow leaf caught under the windscreen wiper.

'A robin redbreast,' Ellen said, pointing. 'Rare to see one so late in autumn.'


'There. On the roof of the toll booth.'

Harry lowered his head and peered through the windscreen.

'Oh yes. So that's a robin redbreast?'

'Yep. But you probably can't tell the difference between that and a redwing, I imagine?'

'Right.' Harry shaded his eyes. Was he becoming short-sighted?

'It's a rare bird, the redbreast,' Ellen said, screwing the top back on the thermos.

'Is that a fact?' Harry said.

'Ninety per cent of them migrate south. A few take the risk, as it were, and stay here.'

'As it were? '

Another crackle on the radio: 'Post 62 to HQ. There's an unmarked car parked by the road two hundred metres before the turn-off for Lørenskog.'

A deep voice with a Bergen accent answered from HQ:'One moment, 62. We'll look into it.'


'Did you check the toilets?' Harry asked, nodding towards the Esso station.

'Yes, the petrol station has been cleared of all customers and employees. Everyone except the boss. We've locked him in his office.'

'Toll booths as well?'

'Done. Relax, Harry, all the checks have been done. Yes, the ones that stay do so in the hope that it will be a mild winter, right? That may be OK, but if they're wrong, they die. So why not head south, just in case, you might be wondering. Are they just lazy, the birds that stay?'

Harry looked in the mirror and saw the guards on either side of the railway bridge. Dressed in black with helmets and MP5 machine guns hanging around their necks. Even from where he was he could see the tension in their body language.

'The point is that if it's a mild winter, they can choose the best nesting places before the others return,' Ellen said, while trying to stuff the thermos into the already full glove compartment. 'It's a calculated risk, you see. You're either laughing all over your face or you're in deep, deep shit. Whether to take the risk or not. If you take the gamble, you may fall off the twig frozen stiff one night and not thaw out till spring. Bottle it and you might not have anywhere to nest when you return. These are, as it were, the eternal dilemmas you're confronted with ...


Excerpted from The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo Copyright © 2007 by Jo Nesbo . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Redbreast 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 123 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Those long winter nights must evoke creative juices, because Scandinavian detective thrillers are a terrific genre. Knowing several of the popular Swedish series, I had until recently not heard about Norway's Nesbo, but I'm happy that's changed. He manages to weave together several major stories, with unanticipated twists and turns, linking past and present mysteries over several decades, and in the process he tosses in a dose of Norwegian history that is as interesting as the rest of his story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know the author of "Redbreast" is not Joe Queenan; I am thanking Mr. Queenan for his recognition of Scandinavian writers as a fresh voice in the mystery/crime fiction genre. Spot-on. The non-spoiler summary: A few good cops, some with some bad habits, are pitted against office politics (and office politicians, as well as some not-so-good cops) while trying to catch a skilled killer with quite a bit of method, and history, to his madness. The substance: Jo Nesbo (don't know how to do the o-slash) is a solid but creative writer with the instinct to tell a real, honest-to-goodness human story that draws readers in without insulting their intelligence by weighing them down with unnecessary details. About halfway through the book, I had to smile at the writing skill - it's been awhile since I've read a story constructed as thoughtfully as this one. "Redbreast" has (enough) surprises to keep the reader intrigued, and although the material doesn't use the accepted U.S. standards for action, romance, or drama, Nesbo blends the perfect recipe of all three into an underlying plot related to one of the main characters.
knittingnancy More than 1 year ago
A complicated combination of characters is introduced to us when they are young and reintroduced to us over 50 years later. I admit to being confused more than once until I started to see how the author uses this devise to keep the reader off balance. Once I thought I had it figured out...bam...Nesbo quickly pulled the rug from under my feet. The translator does a wonderful job. too. The phrasing in natural and the characters, although sometimes hard to keep straight, are very believable.
dbmnazgul More than 1 year ago
A mystery/thriller involving neo-Nazis and their ties to Norway's involvement in WWII. The novel itself jumps back and forth in time, giving pertinent clues to the reader while immersing them in 2 separate stories tied together. This may sound more daunting than it is-- by the time the story reaches its climax it all makes sense. The characters draw you in with their human qualities-- the only issue I had was occasionally losing track of some of them due to my unfamiliarity of Norwegian names. There is a sequence of answering machine messages in the novel that really drew me in to the main character, Harry Hole-- he truly felt like a real person.
edofarrell More than 1 year ago
This book begins with, and the plot turn on, a case of mistaken identity with agents guarding dignitaries. It has the hero, Harry Hole, checking his .38 caliber revolver and then checking for the two 'magazines' for the gun. revolvers do not have magazines. Then he checks the safety. Revolvers do not have safeties. Then he runs toward a person in a toll booth and worries that his weapon will penetrate the 'light ballistic' vests of the Secret Service. 'light ballistic' vests will easily stop a 38 caliber round. Then he opens fire and penetrates the heavy glass of a toll booth with that .38 caliber revolver; unlikely. And the suspect he fires at is alone. I've worked presidential security details. No one, repeat no one, is ever deployed alone. So the book starts off with utter nonsense and goes very quickly south with purple prose, Hardy boy dialog and characters and generally little to pull it out of the hole -- you'll excuse the pun -- of the first few chapters. If you're a young adult and utterly indifferent to accuracy in your thrillers, this might be a book for you. I'd pass and save the money, were I you.
onadvidreader More than 1 year ago
Very good. The English translation was sometimes hard to follow, but otherwise a great read. Gave me an interesting view of WWII for Norway. Will read more of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the "Harry Hole" novels and this one of the best. The twists that Nesbo puts into the novel really keep you on the edge of your seat. Hard to put down.
RplusR More than 1 year ago
This book is the third book in the Harry Hole series, but the first of the series to be translated into English. (There are occassional references to earlier events in Harry Hole's police work. It would be nice if the first two books in the series were translated.) The Redbreast is definitely a more complex and inventive work than most mystery books. There are three different threads that are being woven together. (The experiences of a group of Norwegian soldiers fighting for the Nazis on the Russian front during WWII; an elderly man who feels that the cause of National Socialism has been been betrayed and seeks vindication during the final year of his life; Harry Hole working to uncover an assassination plot before it materializes.) The complexity can be a challenge, but adds to the depth of the overall work. This is the second Jo Nesbo work that I have read. I find him to be a very inventive and creative talent. Well worth reading.
manugw More than 1 year ago
This is my second book by Jo Nesbo. In The Readbreast, he had the skils to conceive a story blending the high beating pulse of an international thriller mixed with the intrigue of the hard boiled. Fast paced, suspenseful, entertaining and with an arrray of similar characters and ingenious twists and turns, The Readbreast will not disappoint readers, who will have to make an intellectual effort so as not to get lost in the story who looks confusing with purpose, it leaves some unsolved issues for a sequel. After having finished it, I now feel compelled to go and read all the following Nesbo published books. He shows he is a cultivated, smart and sly author.
alpersjo More than 1 year ago
Well written - great beach book with enough thrills to convince me to special order Nesbo's other books
NEB1 More than 1 year ago
Harry Hole and Oslo come alive in this mystery. Jo Nesbo doesn't hand you the answer - twists and turns make you think about what's happening. I love stories that take place in Scandinavia and this character is right up there with Kurt Wallender.
Jeanie-j More than 1 year ago
I think this may be an "artsy-fartsy" book. I just didn't get it. The scene kept shifting in time and place, from way back when to right now ... and I gave it up after about 100 pages. Sorry. Just didn't hit my hot button.
macabr More than 1 year ago
In Jo Nesbo's THE REDBREAST, police detective Harry Hole has presented a perfect case against Sverre Olsen, a leader of the Neo-Nazi party in Norway. But a mistake made by the judge causes the case to fall apart and Olsen is back in the community. A month later Harry makes a mistake that nearly causes an international incident so, to prevent further embarrassment, Harry is promoted and assigned to surveillance duties, a job intended to keep him out of the spotlight. This,however, puts Harry in contact again with Olsen and his followers. The Neo-Nazi party has become increasingly active and there are rumors that something is planned for Norway's Independence Day which coincides with the Muslim holiday of Eid. Rumors spread suggesting that the crowds celebrating the national holiday will prevent the police from effectively responding to an attack on the Muslim community. Then a homeless man is murdered and suspicion falls on Svarre Olsen but as Harry investigates he realizes that the old Nazis and the young Nazis are tied together through a story of love, brutality, hero worship, and sexual extortion. Norway worked zealously to bury its connections to Germany during WWII. Vidkun Quisling made his name a synonym for traitor but he wasn't the only Norwegian to believe that the future would belong to the Third Reich. Many of Norway's young men died fighting for Germany on the eastern front and those who did not, returned to a country that was trying to re-write its recent past and so they were branded as traitors. Sixty years later, the old soldiers are being killed with surgical skill or a sniper's shot. Who is doing the killing and why, after so many years, has the assassin decided to act? Jo Nesbo evokes the war years by bringing the reader to the battlefields of Russia and a hospital in Vienna. He brings to life an Oslo comfortable in its democracy, aware of its 21st century problems, and happy to have been convinced that history is a story told by the winners and what is dark and shameful can be redacted with an historian's pen.
LordVader More than 1 year ago
I wasn't bothered by storyline going back and forth on the timeline. I found the history of Norwegian SS volunteers interesting. I enjoyed the plot line, the characters - good and bad, and was stunned to have a possible romantic interest abruptly killed. The name Harry Hole is a bit much, but I like the character. Tell me it's not Wallender with an overlay of Rebus. I plan on reading all of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CPK37 More than 1 year ago
Not the best mystery that I've read, but it was nice reading about Sweden.  Some of Harry Hole's antics are a bit far-fetched., but then, I have Policemen in my family and know how some things are really done.
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Crbncb More than 1 year ago
The writing is great, as usual wit Jo Nesbo. And the story is fascinating. But it's so complex that I'll probably have to read this book several times. And I'll be happy to do so.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Page turner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MargoH More than 1 year ago
Norwegian detective Harry Hole appeals to me as a likable hero with serious personal problems (e.g., alcohoism), but who is protected by his higher-ups from getting fired because of being a brilliant police investigator. I read Nesbo’s two Harry Hole novels written before this one (#3 in the series) as well as one written later. The Redbreast is certainly different from the others I have read so far in the sense that it is longer, much more complex in its plot and characterizations. In many parts of this novel, Nesbo’s writing approaches “artistic” in the literary sense - more than just another escapist crime novel. Especially during the first part of the novel, the narrative switches back and forth between WW2 action at the Russian front in 1944 and the modern day (1999-2000). The main characters several Norwegian soldiers who decided to join a group fighting on Germany’s side in WW2. At that time there was a feeling in Norway that Russia was a threat to them, and this group saw themselves as heroes in laying their lives on the line to stop Russian aggression. Unfortunately, when they returned to Norway after the war they were labeled as traitors and many were imprisoned and some were shot. There are many characters to keep track of in this novel, some of whom eventually assume false identities, and it is crucial to pay careful attention to what is happening to them in 1944 in order to understand what happens in 2000. This is a superbly-written, cleverly-plotted novel and is a tribute to the incredible creative talent of the author Jo Nesbo.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago