Timing is a quality more often associated with the spoken arts: theatre, radio, television, film. But reading Nemesis, Jo Nesbo's follow up to the hugely popular and acclaimed The Redbreast, I was continually struck by the exceptional rightness of the dialogue.
Time and again, as Harry Hole, in particular, spoke I found myself smiling and nodding in appreciation: the dialogue just felt right. It had an audio quality to it, you could hear it being spoken: natural, well-timed, just right, somehow. I have come across that in books before, but perhaps never quite so much. It made reading Nemesis a genuine pleasure.
In part of course,this must be because Jo Nesbo's translator has done a wonderful job converting the Norwegian into copper, colloquial English without taking anything of Scandinavia out of the characters. So Don Bartlett, take a bow.
And of course it's difficult for me to say that Jo Nesbo is a wonderful writer because I don't speak a word of Norwegian - and at 36 I guess now I never will - but even so, if Bartlett is giving a faithful representation of the original, then I have to believe that there is something a bit special about the author.
As with The Redbreast, Nesbo has constructed another multi-layered, clever and sophisticated plot, one that allows him to explore the full emotional and professional range of Harry Hole, who is rapidly developing into one of the more interesting detectives gracing the scene. Hole is not quite a loner; not quite a reckless alcoholic; he does have a healthy disregard for the rules, does it his way and does get results. Unusually for detective novels, however, this is regarded as being a benefit by some senior officers, notably Bjarne Moller, his immediate chief.
In this instance, Hole needs the latitude. He wakes up one morning with no memory of the night before, except that he knows he agreed to meet an old flame, Anna, against his better judgment. His better would have served him well as Anna turns up dead in her flat the following morning, apparently by her own hand. The case is quickly closed as such by his colleagues and Hole quickly establishes that nobody can place him at the scene.
But when a phantom e-mailer begins taunting Hole with the knowledge of his crime, the detective knows he cannot let it pass, and he is quickly trail of a well-known Oslo businessman after a photo of the man's family is found in Anna's shoe.
Meanwhile, Hole is also running an enquiry, parallel to the official investigation run by Rune Ivarsson, a man with whom he shares a mutual dislike, into a bank robbery in which a teller is murdered.
The two cases quickly merge as Hole seeks out the assistance of Raskol, a convicted bank robber who is the uncle of Anna. In return for Hole tracking down Anna's killer, Raskol assists him in identifying the bank robber.
The investigation takes Hole as far afield as Brazil, and as close to home as his own dark places, each equally difficult and expensive to reach.
As the situation becomes ever more complicated for Hole, the plot gathers an irresistible momentum, and one that places Hole, and those he loves most dearly, in danger.
This is another assured, skillful book from Nesbo, who has a gift for narrative as strong as that for dialogue, and is fast establishing himself in the very top tier of European crime novelists.