Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: Police by Jo Nesbø

Police picks up immediately after events at the end of Phantom. Harry Hole, Nesbø's long-time series hero/anti-hero was shot in the head and the chest by his romantic partner's son, Oleg. His fate is unknown for a large section of the book—he may be dead or in a coma—though the novel's cover proclaims that this is a Harry Hole novel, which might be considered something of a spoiler.

The main thing occupying Oslo's homicide division is the fact that someone is killing police officers at the scenes of cold case murders on the killings' anniversaries. The dead officers worked those unsolved cases, and their murders are violent and vicious. The new Chief of Police, Mikael Bellman, couldn't have asked for a worse case to start his tenure. As the weeks go by without progress, and cops continue to be murdered, the press has a field day criticizing his efficacy for the position.

There are disagreements within the department, too, about how best to tackle this serial killing case. One faction advocates working as a single massive team to ensure that information passes freely among all of the officers on the task force. Another group favors sleek, efficient teams. When the mandate comes down from above insisting on the former approach, a small group of investigators goes rogue, setting up shop in the basement boiler room, conducting an unauthorized parallel investigation. This group includes familiar characters, such as Harry's old boss, Gunnar Hagen, Katrine Bratt, Beate Lønn (the woman who can literally never forget a face), Bjorn Hølm and psychologist Stale Aune, who joins them as a consultant after recanting on his decision to avoid working with the police. Conspicuously absent from the team is Harry, whose insight into serial killers would probably go a long way toward cracking the case.

Knowing what went on in the novels prior to Police will increase a reader's enjoyment of this book. Earlier, Harry uncovered corruption among the ranks in the department, but he did not have the opportunity to expose all of it. Some of his actions in Phantom compromised his position. The corrupt officials continue to operate without any cloud of suspicion, and the corruption goes right to the top. Once the team begins to suspect that the perpetrator is another police officer, the dirty cops and their co-colluders fear exposure.

This is a book filled with red herrings and misdirection, something that Nesbø has turned into a fine art. There's the tall man in a coma in a guarded medical ward whose possible return to consciousness puts fear into the heart of several characters. There is Truls Berntsen, the rogue enforcer, who is in Bellman's back pocket, and Isabelle Skoyen, a newly appointed city councilor, who is a frequent visitor to Bellman's bed. There's an unstable female candidate at the police academy who accuses her instructor of rape after he rebuffs her advances. There's a man obsessed with dreams about "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd. And then there's the old standard: the murder victim whose face is obliterated, leaving open the question of whether he's been misidentified.

Nesbø purposefully leaves vague the identity of certain actors in certain situations, allowing readers to assume they know to whom he is referring, thereby increasing the tension. When a character's daughter goes missing and the burned corpse of a young girl turns up, it's natural to assume there's a direct correlation. Sometimes there is—Nesbø pulls no punches in this book and no character's life is sacred—but not always. This misdirection is so pervasive in the book that it eventually wears off and few readers are likely to be taken in by his final sleight of hand. However, that makes the book no less enjoyable. It is chock full of surprises, and just when it seems that the perpetrator has been identified, something else happens to upset the applecart.

The book is not closed-ended, either. In the final scenes, Nesbø sets up a situation that will probably form the basis for his next novel.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2013. All rights reserved.