I was so impressed with Nesbo’s writing that I began reading “The Redeemer” immediately on completion of the earlier Harry Hole novel “The Devil’s Star”.
Being a big Bond fan I was not surprised that Hole’s relationship with Rakel has come to an end between the books. The idea that Hole had finally got his girl at the end of “Devil’s Star” was at least a lot more tentative than Fleming’s assertions that appeared at the end of most of his novels. She has started seeing a doctor and remains distant from Hole for most of the book which is understandable given what her son was put through in the previous book. It’s pretty par for the course for the main male character in this type of book not to be in a steady relationship. In comparison Hole’s relationship with alcohol is little more under control for most of this book although he does have the odd wobble from time to time.
There are changes at the top, Hole’s boss Møller leaves and is replaced by Gunnar Hagen who keeps telling Hole metaphorical war stories much to Hole’s displeasure. The new boss doesn’t really trust Hole to begin with and seems to want to micro manage him into making the one mistake that can then be used against him to get rid of him. Hole isn’t especially liked by some in the Oslo police force having uncovered the arms smuggling plot.
So that’s pretty much all the subplot stuff out of the way. The core of the book is about the assassination of a young soldier in the Salvation Army and Nesbo has obviously done his research into the religious organisation and the concept of a redeemer in Christianity. The assassin served in the army during the Serb versus Croat conflict during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia and the guessing game this time is more to do with ‘why’ rather than ‘who’.
We are introduced to the redeemer, provided with episodes from his militaristic back story (in much the same way as in “the Redbreast”) and follow his trials and tribulations as he discovers from a newspaper article that he’s shot the wrong man. He runs out of bullets, ends up living on the street in the middle of a Norwegian winter and basically turns into a piss-stinking tramp hell-bent on completing his mission.
Something of a financial scandal is uncovered by Hole and when the shooter is shot by a police sniper Hole, as usual, suspects that they might have got the wrong man. He continues to investigate against the wishes of Hagen and eventually figures it all out. Hole is then presented with a couple of moral dilemmas which are somewhat easily resolved when he is availed of all the facts.
The only reward Hole gets at the end of the book is in the form of the respect he earns from Hagen. He doesn’t get Rakel back, doesn’t trust the Salvation Army girl he was briefly entangled with enough to be with her, has seen another member of his squad get killed in the line of duty and has discovered that Møller’s departure shortly after the fall of the Prince (which seemed a bit odd to me) is related to the corruption Hole uncovered in the force.
The plot is rather less complex than “The Devil’s Star” but that is no bad thing. On refection I did find the previous book rather far-fetched despite enjoying every page. “The Redeemer” was a much easier to read and was a definite page-turner. I wouldn’t go so far as Michael Connelly on the back cover saying that his pulse was ‘in the red zone from start to finish’ – that’s shameful hyperbole, but it is a very good read.