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The Redeemer: A Harry Hole Mystery    by Jo Nesbo order for
by Jo Nesbø
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Redeemer is the fourth novel - following The Devil's Star, The Redbreast and Nemesis - to be translated into English (by Don Bartlett) in Jo Nesbø's brilliant series, starring alcoholic (but also resilient, brilliant and persistent to the point of obsession) loner Crime Squad Detective Harry Hole in Oslo, Norway. At this point in Harry's career, his nemesis, Inspector Tom Waaler, has been exposed as the gun smuggling Prince and is dead, but Harry wonders if others, more senior, were involved.

After a flashback to the 1991 rape of a young woman at a Salvation Army summer camp in Østgård, the story opens in December, 2003 on an unusual Croatian assassin - who has facial hyperelasticity - from the former Yugoslavia, as he prepares to execute his second to last job before heading to an Oslo gearing up for Christmas. As the hit man does his thing, readers catch up with Harry Hole, who has his own problems. Harry's not only lost his lover Rakel, but his well-liked boss, Bjarne Møller (who valued Harry for his ability to close cases and protected him from himself) is about to transfer to rainy Bergen and Harry's new 'Straight from the military' boss Gunnar Hagen is just waiting for him 'to step out of line.'

After being bitten by a guard dog while investigating the case (already closed by his peers) of a dead drug addict in a container terminal, Harry gets to know Martine Eckhoff, daughter of the Salvation Army Commander, and a mutual attraction develops. Then the hit man shoots Salvation Army Captain Robert Karlsen, and the chase begins. Flashbacks slowly reveal the assassin's past and flesh out his character (at least what has led to his current occupation), making him surprisingly sympathetic. Indeed, it's hard not to feel for him as a storm shuts of his anticipated escape route and then he discovers that he's killed the wrong man - Robert's brother Jon was his real target.

As the police follow the killer's trail - and he tries to finish his job, and does what he must to survive without access to funds or shelter - there are more deaths. Micro-managed by his new boss and assisted by his partner and friend Halvorsen and by Halvorsen's lover, head of forensics Beate Lønn, Harry Hole learns that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. Then, when someone close to him is shot, Harry embarks on a drinking binge when he can least afford it. When all is said and done, Harry must seek his own redemption.

I enjoy maverick Harry's comments on the job. For example, in reaction to political correctness in crime solving, he says, 'In this room, we reserve the right to discriminate against everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender. Our defence is that it is not exclusively the weakest members of society who are discriminated against.' And I appreciate Jo Nesbø's intricate plotting, his trademark play on title words (for example the hit man is known as the little redeemer), sleight of hand misdirection, and deliberate blurring of transitions between scenes.

By the end of The Redeemer, as in Nesbø's previous novels, readers want to start all over again based on their new understanding of what has been happening. Any of Harry Hole's adventures are must reads for mystery readers.

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