Feed on

Jo Nesbo–KNIFE

“The old man could see it now. A beam of light coming from upriver, off to the right…[He] opened his mouth when he saw the spaceship come into the picture.  It was lit up from within and was hovering a meter and a half off the riverbed.  The current knocked it against a large rock, and almost in slow motion, it spun round until the light from the front of it swept across the riverbed and for a moment blinded the old man when it hit the camera lens…It was a car…full of water almost up to the roof.  There was someone in there.” – from the opening chapter.

cover knifeNorwegian author Jo Nesbo, regarded by many as the best thriller writer of the century, always plunges directly into his stories, with vivid opening images like the one quoted above, in which characters raise questions about darkly surprising events that appear without warning, often during emergencies. The reader, too, has questions about the who, what, when, and why of these very early events which raise the suspense from the start, and, in turn, lead the reader to speed ahead, looking for answers to conundrums which may not be truly resolved until much later in the novel.  Nesbo’s descriptive talents are legion, enough to seduce even the most jaded reader into becoming involved in these novels from the outset.  From mysterious events like the one quoted above, in which a character sees something that he cannot believe, to moments in which someone experiences violence, fends off an attack, recognizes that the truth is different from what he has always believed, or fears for a loved-one’s safety, Nesbo is in total control, with most readers hanging on for the wild ride sure to follow.

author photo stia brochHarry Hole, the main character of Knife (and of the series bearing his name), has long been known for his alcoholism, blackouts, and complete lack of control, which he continues to exhibit in his self-destructive rages against the world at large.  While I am tired of Harry’s negative behavior after reading all twelve novels in the Harry Hole series, this new offering, Knife, is so well written that it has made me regard Nesbo’s work in a new light.  The best of the best, it has beautifully developed themes, flawless pacing,  intriguing and repeating subordinate characters, imaginative plotting, unrelenting dark atmosphere, and unexpected twists – one after another – after another – the likes of which I have never seen any other author even come close to duplicating.  Most excitingly, Nesbo keeps all levels of his themes on point throughout the action, while adding a whole new level of development.  His objective goes beyond the obvious goal of having Harry Hole win in his battle against crime by catching the murderer or murderers whom the police are seeking.  Now Harry Hole wants true justice – which in this case means seeing that a guilty person gets punished to the degree that he truly deserves – and Harry Hole is the one who decides what that amount will be.

Jo Nesbo is a professional musician in addition to an author, and he includes many references to groups and singers especially the Ramones, in this novel.

Jo Nesbo, a professional musician in addition to an author, includes many references to groups and singers, especially the Ramones, in this novel.

If he knows for sure that a murderer is dead, for example, that man obviously cannot be punished for the murder he committed, and the murder remains unavenged.  But if a confessed murderer, or serial killer, remains at large, unpunished, simply because there is not enough hard evidence to convict him, Harry sees no problem with stacking up some new evidence that might tie that killer to an unavenged murder he did not commit so that he can then be convicted as he deserves to be.  In the grand scheme of things, Harry regards this as judicially fair – after all, murder is murder, and in his mind it makes no difference which murder sends a killer to jail.  In an interesting reverse of this, which also occurs in Knife,  a father takes the blame for a murder committed by one of his adult children, even signing a confession, but after Harry investigates why, he refuses to let the adult child who committed the crime go free.   With a complex plot, more than one murder, a serial killer on the loose, and a series of repeating characters with past histories related to Harry Hole, Knife offers non-stop drama and action.

Lader Sagens Gate, is not a gate at all. It is a building, now used as a music school, and a landmark in Oslo. Harry and Jborn discuss the murderer here.

Lyder Sagens Gate, is not a gate at all. It is a building, now used as a music school, and a landmark in Oslo. Harry and BJorn discuss the murderer here.

I have deliberately avoided saying much about the plot here because it is a doozy, filled with emotion and surprises, and I do not want to spoil it for the reader.  It is enough to say that the main event occurs when someone well known to Harry is murdered.  The major suspect, Svein Finne, a sexual predator, has just been released from prison after serving twenty years.  While he was in prison, his son, Valentin Gjertsen, “one of the worst killers in Norwegian criminal history,” was killed by Harry Hole, and Finne now wants revenge.  Harry believes that the killing of his friend was a revenge killing by Finne, and when the two confront each other in an abandoned bunker, Harry beats Finne brutally.  Not long after, however, another person, Roar Bohr, is thought more likely to be the killer.  And he is not the only new suspect.  Harry has been drinking to the point of unconsciousness, and when he is found with blood on his clothes and hands, one member of the police suggests that Harry himself may have been the murderer.  Harry remembers nothing.


A murder takes place late in the novel at Smestaddammen on the side of the lake. The victim had been shot from across the lake.

Suspended from the police department,  he works on his own to try to solve the murder, relying, occasionally, on some of his police friends, familiar to Nesbo fans, who are actively involved in the investigation.  Through flashbacks and flashforwards, the investigation proceeds. Subplots galore keep the action going, and close-up scenes with the debilitated Harry make his own erratic behavior increasingly suspect. Supporting characters deal with additional crimes, and various characters of both sexes find each other for romance – with several of the women “adopting” Harry.   Several characters show sides of themselves that come as surprises to the reader – and to Harry – and that adds to the excitement and the mystery.  The action is constant and well developed, and as each complication arises, the reader sees how Jo Nesbo is developing his theories of justice, what it really means, and how it should be applied.   Nesbo’s genius and his care for details make this Nesbo’s most thrilling thriller to date.

Rakel compares her love and Harry Hole's to the root system of the oldest tree in the world, Ols Tjikko, in Sweden. Photo by Pal Magnus Tommervold.

Rakel once compared her love and Harry Hole’s to the root system of the oldest tree in the world, Old Tjikko, in Sweden. Photo by Pal Magnus Tommervold.

ALSO by Nesbo:  Harry Hole serises:   THE BAT,      COCKROACHES,     THE REDBREAST,     NEMESIS,     THE DEVIL’S STAR,       THE REDEEMER,     SNOWMAN,     THE LEOPARD,     PHANTOM,      POLICE,     THIRST (2017)      

Olav Johansen series :  BLOOD ON SNOW (2015 ),      MIDNIGHT SUN (2015)

Photos.  The author’s photo appears on https://www.post-gazette.com

The Ramones’ Road to Ruin is an album which Harry Hole greatly admired and discussed several times in the novel.  Author Jo Nesbo is, himself, a musician with a band in Norway.  https://en.wikipedia.org/

Lyder Sagens Gate is the site of a dramatic conversation between Harry and Bjorn Holm about the murderer of his friend.  It is now the site of a music school.  https://mapio.net

Smestaddammen, an Oslo lake and park, is where a murder takes place late in the novel.  The killer was hiding across the lake when he fired his shots.  https://akersposten.no/

Old Tjikko, in Sweden, reminds Harry of Rakel’s comparison between the roots of that oldest tree in the world and her love for Harry:  https://akersposten.no/

REVIEW. PHOTOS. Mystery, Thriller, Noir, Nordic Noir, Norway, Psychological study
Written by: Jo Nesbo
Published by: Knopf
Date Published: 07/09/2019
ISBN: 978-0525655398
Available in: Ebook Paperback Hardcover


Comments are closed.