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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.
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.
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.
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