The Bat is the first Jo Nesbo novel I’ve read, and in fact among only a few Scandinavian crime fiction books. It tells the story of Harry Hole, a Norwegian detective sent to Sydney following the brutal murder of a Norwegian there. He, of course, is a troubled cop dealing with alcoholism and the past mistakes his condition caused (particularly, the death of a fellow officer). But he is also a brilliant detective. You know the type. It’s a cliche but works when written well (I’m thinking of Lawrence Block in particular).
They track the killer down , eventually, but we meet a host of unfortunate people on the way, many of whom appear for brief periods, to be the killer – including Andrew, a high functioning drug addict and fellow police officer and Otto (the bat), a troubled gay man, Joseph an alcoholic aboriginee, drug dealer Evans White. And we meet Birgitta, a fellow Scandinavian, with whom Harry has a brief and tragic affair.
I enjoyed it, in an Ian Rankin kind of way. It was a cut above a lot of conventional page-turner crime fiction in that the characters were largely believable, the plot was interesting and credible, and, importantly, it was very easy to read. The most compelling parts were not the tracking of the criminal but the troubles of the main protagonist Harry Hole.
But, for all its entertainment, it is the kind of book that is largely forgettable. Hence the need for this blog post!