The Devil’s Star (Harry Hole #5), by Jan Nesbo

2003. (2005 in English.)

The Devil’s Star is a good fast-paced crime novel that takes you around downtown Oslo, a city I know from repeated visits, to its parks and its monuments. It’s the heat of summer, which usually lasts about a week, and everyone’s in the mountains or out at their hutta on the fiord.

Harry, er, Hole, I can’t get my head around what I’m supposed to call this guy. Call him Hole? Okay, so Hole doesn’t do vacations. He drinks. He has a busted up personal life. He’s of course the best police detective in Oslo. His boss protects him from his departmental enemies as long as he can but even he loses patience. As the book begins, Hole is in the process of being fired.

But. A grisly murder of an attractive woman mobilizes the vacation-depleted force. Hole gets called in, refuses the call, and his nemesis assumes control of the investigation. Then another similar murder five days later results in Hole and his sworn enemy working the case together.

It’s a serial killer. There are grisly details. Attractive victims. Plot twists. False trails. A corrupt police element. A taunting cat-and-mouse game with the killer. And Hole’s fight with the bottle.

Nesbo reminds me of Harlan Coben. His characters are well-drawn but for me they don’t really pop. His plots are intricate and well-paced but for me they could use some creative editing. Nesbo, like Coben, could cut a third from the books that I’ve read and save a few trees.

At the end, for example, the killer explains his actions to Hole for fourteen pages. He simply decides to tell him everything he did in mind-numbing detail. Show don’t tell? Maybe that advice doesn’t apply to best-selling crime writers.



M L Rudolph has worked for CNN among other American and British television and film companies. He has written for general interest and trade magazines and published his first novel, Facing the Son, A novel of Africa, on Amazon in 2011. More are on the way. Rudolph is a dual US/UK national and lives in Pasadena, CA. View all posts by M L RUDOLPH

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