Before Harry took on the neo-Nazi gangs of Oslo, before he met Rakel, before The Snowman tried to take everything he held dear, he went to Australia. Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction.
When a Norwegian girl is murdered in Australia, the Norwegian Police sends Harry Hole to investigate the matter there. Away from his normal playing field and in a completely different country, Harry has to overcome quite a few hurdles in order to get to the bottom of the matter. Soon he connects the crime to series of others that lead us on to realize that there’s a serial killer on the loose.
This book has the most wonderful narration I have read in recent times. Seriously, I think even if the plot had lacked strength, which it doesn’t, or the characters turned out to be crap, which they aren’t, I am sure, even then I would have enjoyed reading this book. So club up that narration with an awesome plot and strong characters, this book was a total rockstar.
Mostly in mystery/thriller genre when there’s a series dedicated to a particular character (Hercule Poirot / Alex Cross for example), the protagonist somehow always end up standing out very distinctly from the other characters. I mean – with Hercule Poirot it is always ‘grey matters’ and there’s probably not a single supporting character or antagonist who can actually stand shoulder to shoulder with him. But again there are a rare few characters, like a Professor James Moriarty, in the Sherlock Holmes series, who make as big an impression on you as the protagonist himself. So, it was refreshing to read about a protagonist working together with a very strong Australian counterpart. Though Andrew is no Professor Moriarty, he has certain strength in his character that I admired Jo Nesbo for.
From the summary on goodreads, I realized thought this is the first book in the Harry Hole Series, it wasn’t the first one to be published. I have only read The Phantom (the latest one in the series before) and so I was somewhat a blank slate – with a few scribbles at the very bottom, when it comes to Harry Hole’s character. The Harry we see in ‘The Bat’ and the Harry we see in ‘The Phantom’ are so very different! While this glimpse of a younger and less burdened Harry was something I enjoyed, I am really intrigued about and would love to know the twists and turns that his life takes to take him to the point where he is in ‘The Phantom’
Do I recommend this book? Yes! Yes! Yes!