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The Devil's Star    by Jo Nesbo order for
Devil's Star
by Jo Nesbø
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Devil's Star (translated by Don Bartlett) is the fifth of Jo Nesbø's outstanding mysteries starring Crime Squad Police Detective Harry Hole, an alcoholic who is also an exceptional cop, well respected by his peers if not by most of his bosses (he survives in the job only because his immediate superior, Bjarne Møller, regularly covers for him.) Harry is the 'lone wolf, the drunk, the department's enfant terrible and, apart from Tom Waaler, the best detective on the sixth floor.'

Still devastated by the murder of his partner and friend, Ellen Gjelten, in The Redbreast, Harry has continued to fanatically pursue her case. Firm in his conviction that tough, young, ambitious Inspector Tom Waaler (who shot a neo-Nazi suspected of being Ellen's killer) was involved and is an arms smuggler code named Prince, Harry uncovers a witness willing to testify. When the witness is intimidated, and his superiors refuse to take his suspicions seriously, Harry goes on a binge. He risks his job and it suspends his romantic relationship with Rakel Fauke, despite the protests of her son Oleg, who calls Harry Daddy.

The serial killings at the heart of The Devil's Star open on dripping blood that reveals the existence of a young woman's corpse in an apartment building's upper floor. Møller gives the case to Tom Waaler, ordering Harry to work with him. The woman's index finger was removed and a red diamond star found under her eyelid. There's a similar M.O. with subsequent victims. As they work together, Tom Waaler makes overtures to Harry to join his organization. Harry considers them while continuing to work on a 'watertight case' against Waaler. When the investigations come together, Harry is forced to go rogue, helped only by Beate Lonn.

Of course, Harry ultimately takes down both his colleague's shooter and the serial killer (a devil's star the key), though someone very close to him almost dies in the process. Michael Connelly calls Jo Nesbø his new favorite thriller writer, a fitting tribute since their leads share talent, determination and a readiness to flout authority. Nesbø is also at the top of my list of thriller writers for his brilliant hero, his convoluted and surprising plots, and the fascinating themes he incorporates into each novel. If you enjoy thrillers and haven't read his yet, you're behind the times. Like the previous Harry Hole episodes, The Devil's Star is an extraordinary, highly recommended read.

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