Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.
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Excerpted from Chapter 1
Something was wrong.
At first the female passport official had beamed: “How are ya, mate?”
“I’m fine,” Harry Hole had lied. It was more than thirty hours since he had taken off from Oslo via London, and after the change of planes in Bahrain he had sat in the same bloody seat by the emergency exit. For security reasons it could only be tipped back a little, and his lumbar region had almost crumbled by the time they reached Singapore.
And now the woman behind the counter was no longer smiling.
She had scrutinized his passport with conspicuous interest. Whether it was the photograph or his name that had initially put her in such a cheery mood was hard to say.
Harry Hole had a suspicion that passport officials in most places in the world would have added a “sir,” but he had read that this type of formal pleasantry wasn’t especially widespread in Australia. It didn’t really matter; Harry wasn’t particularly accustomed to foreign travel or snobbish—all he wanted was a hotel room and a bed as quickly as possible.
“Yes,” he had replied, drumming his fingers on the counter.
And that was when her lips had pursed, turned ugly and articulated, with a pointed tone: “Why isn’t there a visa in your passport, sir?”
His heart sank, as it invariably did when there was a hint of a catastrophe in the offing. Perhaps “sir” was used only when situations became critical?
“Sorry, I forgot,” Harry mumbled, searching feverishly through his inside pockets. Why had they not been able to pin a special visa in his passport as they do with standard visas? Behind him in the queue he heard the faint drone of a Walkman and realized it was his traveling companion from the plane. He had been playing the same cassette the whole flight. Why the hell could he never remember which pocket he put things in? It was hot as well, even though it was getting on for ten o’clock at night. Harry could feel his scalp beginning to itch.
At last he found the document and placed it on the counter, to his great relief.
“Police officer, are you?”
The passport official looked up from the special visa and studied him, but the pursed mouth was gone.
“I hope no Norwegian blondes have been murdered?”
She chuckled and smacked the stamp down hard on the special visa.
“Well, just the one,” Harry Hole answered.
The arrivals hall was crowded with travel reps and limousine drivers, holding up signs with names on, but not a Hole in sight. He was on the point of grabbing a taxi when a black man wearing light blue jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, and with an unusually broad nose and dark, curly hair plowed a furrow between the signs and came striding toward him.
“Mr. Holy, I presume!” he declared triumphantly.
Harry Hole considered his options. He had decided to spend the first days in Australia correcting the pronunciation of his surname so that he wouldn’t be confused with apertures or orifices. Mr. Holy however, was infinitely preferable.
“Andrew Kensington. How are ya?” the man grinned and stuck out an enormous fist.
It was nothing less than a juice extractor.
“Welcome to Sydney. Hope you enjoyed the flight,” the stranger said with evident sincerity, like an echo of the air hostess’s announcement twenty minutes earlier. He took Harry’s battered suitcase and began to walk toward the exit without a backward glance. Harry kept close to him.
“Do you work for Sydney police?” he initiated.
“Sure do, mate. Watch out!”
The swing door hit Harry in the face, right on the hooter, and made his eyes water. A bad slapstick sketch could not have started worse. He rubbed his nose and swore in Norwegian. Kensington sent him a sympathetic look.
“Bloody doors, eh?” he said.
Harry didn’t answer. He didn’t know how to answer that sort of comment down under.
In the car park Kensington unlocked the boot of a small, well-used Toyota and shoved in the suitcase. “Do you wanna drive, mate?” he asked in surprise.
Harry realized he was sitting in the driver’s seat. Of course, they drove on the bloody left in Australia. However, the passenger seat was so full of papers, cassettes and general rubbish that Harry squeezed into the back.
“You must be an Aboriginal,” he said as they turned onto the motorway.
“Guess there’s no fooling you, Officer,” Kensington answered, glancing in the mirror.
“In Norway we call you Australian Negroes.”
Kensington kept his eyes trained on the mirror. “Really?”
Harry began to feel ill at ease. “Er, by that I just mean that your forefathers obviously didn’t belong to the convicts sent here from England two hundred years ago.” He wanted to show he had at least a modicum of knowledge about the country’s history.
“That’s right, Holy. My forefathers were here a bit before them. Forty thousand years, to be precise.”
Kensington grinned into the mirror. Harry vowed to keep his mouth shut for a while.
“I see. Call me Harry.”
“OK, Harry. I’m Andrew.”
Andrew ran the conversation for the rest of the ride. He drove Harry to King’s Cross, holding forth the whole way: this area was Sydney’s red-light district and the center for the drugs trade and to a large extent all the other shady dealings in town. Every second scandal seemed to have a connection with some hotel or strip joint inside this square kilometer.
“Here we are,” Andrew said suddenly. He pulled in to the curb, jumped out and took Harry’s suitcase from the boot.
“See you tomorrow,” Andrew said, and with that he and the car were gone. With a stiff back and jet lag beginning to announce its presence, Harry and his suitcase were now alone on a pavement in a town boasting a population roughly equivalent to the whole of Norway, outside the splendid Crescent Hotel. The name was printed on the door next to three stars. Oslo’s Chief Constable was not known for largesse with regards to accommodation for her employees. But perhaps this one was not going to be too bad after all. There must have been a civil service discount and it was probably the hotel’s smallest room, Harry reflected.
And it was.
Harry knocked warily on the door of the Head of Crime Squad for Surry Hills.
“Come in,” boomed a voice from inside.
A tall, broad man with a stomach designed to impress was standing by the window, behind an oak desk. Beneath a thinning mane protruded gray bushy eyebrows, but the wrinkles around his eyes smiled.
“Harry Holy from Oslo, Norway, sir.”
“Take a pew, Holy. You look bloody fit for this time of the morning. I hope you haven’t been to see any of the boys in Narc, have you?” Neil McCormack let out a huge laugh.
“Jet lag. I’ve been awake since four this morning, sir,” Harry explained.
“Of course. Just an in-joke. We had a pretty high-profile corruption case here a couple of years back, you see. Ten officers were convicted, among other things for selling drugs—to one another. Suspicion was raised because a couple of them were so alert—round the clock. No joke really.” He chuckled contentedly, put on his glasses and flicked through the papers in front of him.
“So you’ve been sent here to assist us with our investigation into the murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian citizen with a permit to work in Australia. Blonde, good-looking girl, according to the photos. Twenty-three years old, wasn’t she?”
Harry nodded. McCormack was serious now.
“Found by fishermen on the ocean side of Watson’s Bay—to be more precise, Gap Park. Semi-naked. Bruising suggested she had been raped first and then strangled, but no semen was found. Later transported at the dead of night to the park where the body was dumped off the cliff.”
He pulled a face.
“Had the weather been a little worse the waves would definitely have carried her out, but instead she lay among the rocks until she was found. As I said, there was no semen present, and the reason for that is that the vagina was sliced up like a filleted fish and the seawater did a thorough job of washing this girl clean. Therefore we have no fingerprints either, though we do have a rough estimate of time of death . . .” McCormack removed his glasses and rubbed his face. “But we don’t have a murderer. And what the hell are you gonna do about that, Mr. Holy?”
Harry was about to answer but was interrupted.
“What you’re gonna do is watch carefully while we haul the bastard in, tell the Norwegian press along the way what a wonderful job we’re doing together—making sure we don’t offend anyone at the Norwegian Embassy, or relatives—and otherwise enjoy a break and send a card or two to your dear Chief Constable. How is she by the way?”
“Fine, as far as I know.”
“Great woman, she is. I s’pose she explained to you what’s expected of you?”
“To some extent. I’m taking part in an invest—”
“Great. Forget all that. Here are the new rules. Number one: from now on you listen to me, me and me alone. Number two: you don’t take part in anything you haven’t been instructed to do by me. And number three: one toe out of line and you’ll be on the first plane home.”
This was delivered with a smile, but the message was clear: paws off, he was here as an observer. He might just as well have brought his swimming things and a camera along.
“I gather that Inger Holter was some kind of TV celeb in Norway?”
“A minor celeb, sir. She hosted a children’s program broadcast a couple of years ago. I suppose before this happened she was on her way into oblivion.”
“Yeah, I’ve been told that your papers are making a big thing of this murder. Couple of them have sent people here already. We’ve given ’em what we’ve got, and that’s not a great deal, so they’ll soon be bored and bugger off home. They don’t know you’re here. We’ve got our own nannies, so you won’t have to take care of them.”
“Thank you for that, sir,” Harry said, and he meant it. The thought of panting Norwegian journalists looking over his shoulder was not a welcome one.
“OK, Holy, I’ll be honest with you and tell you how the land lies. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by my governor that councillors in Sydney would like to see this case cleared up as soon as possible. As usual, it’s all about politics and dosh.”
“Well, we reckon unemployment in Sydney will rise to over ten percent this year, and the town needs every cent we can get from the tourists. We’ve got the Olympic Games just round the corner, in 2000, and tourism from Scandinavia’s on the up. Murder, especially one which hasn’t been cleared up, isn’t a good advert for the town, so we’re doing what we can. We have a team of four detectives on the case plus high-priority access to the force’s resources—all the computers, forensic staff, lab people. And so on.”
McCormack pulled out a sheet of paper which he studied with a frown.
“In fact, you should be working with Watkins, but since you specifically asked for Kensington, I see no reason to refuse your request.”
“Sir, to my knowledge I haven’t—”
“Kensington’s a good man. There are not many Indigenous officers who have come up through the ranks like him.”
McCormack shrugged. “That’s just the way it is. Well, Holy, if there’s anything else, you know where I hang out. Any questions?”
“Er, just a formality, sir. I was wondering whether sir was the right mode of address to a superior officer in this country, or whether it was a little too . . .”
“Formal? Stiff? Yes, I guess it probably is. But I like it. It reminds me that I am in fact the boss of this outfit.” McCormack burst out laughing and concluded the meeting with a bone-crunching handshake.
“January’s the tourist season in Australia,” Andrew explained as they lurched forward in the traffic around Circular Quay.
“Everyone comes to see the Sydney Opera House and go on boat trips round the harbor and admire the women on Bondi Beach. Shame you’ve got to work.”
Harry shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. I break out in a cold sweat around tourist traps.”
They emerged onto New South Head Road, where the Toyota sped eastward to Watson’s Bay.
“The East Side of Sydney’s not exactly like the East End of London,” Andrew explained as they passed one fashionable house after another. “This district’s called Double Bay. We call it Double Pay.”
“Where did Inger Holter live?”
“She lived with her boyfriend in Newtown for a while before they split up and she moved to a little one-room flat in Glebe.”
Andrew shrugged. “He’s Australian, a computer engineer and met her when she came here on holiday two years ago. He’s got an alibi for the night of the murder and is not exactly the prototype of a murderer. But you never know, do you?”
They parked below Gap Park, one of Sydney’s many green lungs. Steep stone steps led up to the windblown park that lay high above Watson’s Bay to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The heat hit them when they opened the car doors. Andrew put on a big pair of shades, which made Harry think of a laid-back porn king. For some reason his Australian colleague was wearing a tight suit today, and Harry thought the broad-shouldered black man looked a bit comical as he rolled and pitched up the path in front of him to the viewpoint.
Harry looked around. To the west he saw the city center with the Harbor Bridge, to the north the beach and yachts in Watson’s Bay and, further in the distance, verdant Manly, the suburb on the northern side of the bay. To the east the horizon curved in a spectrum of various shades of blue. The cliffs plunged down in front of them, and way below the ocean breakers ended their long voyage in a thunderous crescendo among the rocks.
Harry felt a bead of sweat running down between his shoulder blades. This heat was giving him goose pimples.
“You can see the Pacific Ocean from here, Harry. Next stop New Zealand, after about twelve hundred wet miles,” Andrew said, spitting a thick gobbet off the edge of the cliff. They followed it down for a while until the wind dispersed it.
“Good job she wasn’t alive when she fell,” he said. “She must have hit the cliffs on the way down; there were large chunks of flesh torn from her body when they found her.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm a big fan of the Harry Hole series and was looking forward to reading the first book after it was translated. Unfortunately, it was very disappointing - another Scandinavian alcoholic detective wallowing in self-pity and the bottle. If I had read this before reading "The Readbreast" and "Nemesis" I would not have continued the series. Maybe this is why "The Bat" wasn't the first book to be translated to English. The other books are much, much better.
I liked it. I liked it a lot. He created a couple of great characters in Harry Hole and Andrew Kensington. It was paced really well, and had mostly believable interactions between the characters. The flaws the characters had only made them that much more relatable. I can't wait to read more, though I know it's going to be different; if for no other reason than Harry leaves Australia to go back to Norway. The 'fish out of water' and 'flawed man' motif's reminded me a little of Tony Hillerman's Jim Chee or William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor, two other wonderfully written series. Though, Harry Hole is probably more flawed than the other two. Wonderful book, I highly recommend it. The ebook was formatted fine with no obvious errors.
I can almost completely forgive the tendency of Nesbo to ramble on. Great read. Glad it was finally released for US fans.
I now have to read the entire series. Love the way he writes....like watching a movie that keeps you gripped to your seat until the end.
Very disappointing (I enjoyed prior Jo Nesbo / Harry Hole books). Dialogue is stilted and unnatural. I was unable to finish the read/
Tall, blonde, Scandinavian Harry. Complex and damaged but nevertheless a brilliant detective. A man after my own heart. Yes, I like damaged men, even fictional ones. It's my cross to bear. Anyway, back to the point... A good mystery with solid characters The Bat is a first rate mystery/thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Most of the time. It meandered in places, but for the most part the book kept my attention and left me guessing on who the killer was. Like The Leopard, I think the author could have cut a few pages and it still would have been a good read. * I received an arc from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Along with interesting glimpses into Australian cultural and social issues, the author has created a fast paced whodunit starring charming and feisty Norwegian investgator Harry Hole.
Jo Nesbo resucitated my faith in the genre. I had given up. I was determined not to risk to waste another single dollar buying "police misteries" anymorer, ever. Somehow I was able to listen to an audiobook of this author and have become a faithful follower ever since. It is not that it is perfect, but it is good enough to entertain my interest in a genre where millions of books from many different authors just repeat the same "vulgar" motif shamelessly over and over again, as if the same team of ghost writers were producing them all.
Good conversations with local color (Australia), but not much action. Not sure if I will try this author again.
Jo Nesbo's first Harry Hole novel is interesting, charming, surprising, sad, funny, and unexpectedly better than advertised. Reading a Norwegian's foray into Australian life is intriguing. Nesbo's protagonist is not typical and the book had actual shocks. The characters were realistic and the mystery was decent. Overall, a very good start to what I expect to be a great series.
Fun to find out who
I really want to watch the movie The Snowman, based on a Harry Hole book by Jo Nesbo. But I have a rule...if a movie is based on a book, I have to read the book before I watch the film. There is a bit of a problem with that rule sometimes. I am a bit OCD when it comes to reading a series. I always have to start at book 1 and read through in order. The Snowman is book #7 of #11 in the Harry Hole series...so I have a bit of reading to do before I can watch the film. Jo Nesbo is Norwegian, and his Harry Hole series was not translated into English in order. The first book, The Bat, was written in 1997. But it wasn't published in English until 2012. From what I read, the delay is probably because the novel is set in Australia, not in Oslo as the later books. The second book, The Cockroaches, was also not translated until many years after it's publication in Norwegian. The second book is set in Thailand, as Harry Hole is sent there to assist in a murder investigation. So, technically a reader could jump in on book 3 where Hole is at home in Norway. Word is that the books set in Norway are better. I can't be a judge of that since I haven't read them yet. I'm reading in order.....it's just my way. The basics: Norwegian detective Harry Hole is sent to Sydney, Australia to help investigate the murder of a Norwegian woman, Inger Holter. Australian officials don't really want his help, but he digs into the case anyway. He's paired up with an Aborigine detective, Andrew Kensington. Hole (pronounced Hole-y) finds that there are similar killings of other blonde women, turning the investigation into the search for a serial killer. If I had to judge the Harry Hole character from this first book....I would have to be honest and say he's pretty unlikable. He makes some really crappy decisions in this first book...from falling off the wagon and making a total drunken ass of himself on more than one occasion to stupidly putting an innocent woman in danger to solve the case. Not to mention the really bad stuff in his past....yikes! Is he a good investigator -- yes. Is he perfect, or even respectable? Not really. But being an asshole and making some huge mistakes doesn't mean he's a bad detective.....just a flawed one. I know this series gets better as it goes along.....so I'm going to give Harry the benefit of a doubt and not declare him too douchey for my reading tastes....yet. He makes some whopping bad judgement calls in this first novel....but he is flawed and undeniably human. And a damned good investigator, drunk or sober. There is a lot of interesting discussion about Aborigine history, life and beliefs. I enjoyed those portions of the story immensely. And the criminal investigation was engaging and suspenseful, if a bit far-fetched in spots. I liked the way the story ends -- it was perfect. All in all, Harry Hole is a very flawed character....but I like him anyway. I'm going to keep reading this series and see the development of the character over time. I'm glad I'm coming in when the series is already translated. It does make me wonder how many outstanding similar series I am missing out on because they aren't in English. I love discovering authors who are new to me.....I'm really looking forward to reading more books by Jo Nesbo.
Here's the hard part about reviewing an audiobook that was translated from a language I don't know: I can't use any character names, because I don't know how to spell them. :( That's mostly a joke, but also a disclaimer: I did listen to the audiobook instead of physically reading, so some of my complaints could be related to that. This book was... confusing. I've never read any of the other Harry Hole books, and skimming some other reviews makes me think that I might like later books in the series more, but I found this one very hard to follow. I couldn't keep the characters straight, especially near the end when flashbacks became more common, and I often didn't know whether we were in a flashback or not. Again, this might be because of the audiobook narrator rather than the actual writing, but most of the characters sounded sort of the same to me; they didn't have distinctive voices. There were several weird tangents that made the murder-mystery plot hard to follow, as well. I found myself tuning out a little when characters started rambling about the history of Australia and Aboriginal myths and family backstories because, while interesting, they were (mostly) completely irrelevant to the plot. Some of them became relevant-ish when the reason for the murders was finally explained (no spoilers!), but they didn't have to be so... long. All that said, I didn't dislike the book. The writing is very good, and the plot ended up being quite interesting once I figured out what was going on. Harry himself is an interesting character - I might check out some of the later books in the series, now that I know more of what to expect.
This was terrible, I really struggled to finish it. This is supposed to be about a murder but they focused on everything but.... It doesn't get interesting until chapter 45. I read ALOT but this was not worth it at all. Unfortunately I did purchase the 2nd ebook at the same time but it will be a long time before I read any more from this author. Plots & character development are necessary in any book & this one falls very short. It kind of felt like the murder was an after thought until the killer was revealed. The who, what, why, when & how are all missing from this book. Save your money & read the dictionary.
lots of twisty turny plot changes. Very entertaining read.
When Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole novels were translated into English and gained a following outside of Scandinavia, it was decided to also bring out some of the earliest books in the series and make THEM available to the North American audience, as well. There's at least a couple of reasons why these books weren't originally selected for translation and sale in this country. “The Bat”, first in the series, sends Harry Hole from his comfort zone in Oslo to Sydney, Australia. A young Norwegian has been killed, and the Norwegian government wants a police attaché involved with the local police. In this case, “ attaché” is a loose concept, translated to “lone wolf”. (In that sense, it reminded me of the Clint Eastwood classic “Coogan's Bluff”, where a southwestern police detective attempted to chase a felon through New York City – it became the basis of the television series “McCloud”.) It is a strange introduction to the Oslo police department when the action occurs half a world away from the city and country in which the protagonist is based. This is one of the reasons why the first novels – the second is set in Thailand – were originally withheld from the American market. The other reason, in my opinion, is that the writing is not up to Nesbo's later standards. The characters are not as interesting or sympathetic as the ones we deal with in the later novels, and the climax had been telegraphed early in the novel. Read the book for completion's sake. Read the book for the author's impressions of Australia. Read the book because you want to. Do NOT read the book because you're expecting the quality of work that you've experienced in the author's later works – despite the fact that this book came out much later than other novels in the Harry Hole series, this really IS a first novel. And it shows. RATING: 3 1/2 stars, rounded down to 3 stars where 1/2 stars are not permitted.
Main charector not really likeable.
This is my first introduction to the Harry Hole series, and I am unsure if I will continue reading this series. The story centers on Harry Hole, a Norwegian detective assisting with a case in Australia. The story focuses on many issues in Australia such as the aborigines and the history of Australia; and all this from a Norwegian writer. Harry is an alcoholic and the case sends him into an alcoholic binge. Harry jumps from night clubs, strip joints, a circus, and an aquarium with ease. The story ends with the villain receiving due punishment, but the route is littered with dead blondes and unlikely vermin.