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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jo Nesbø

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To purchase Nemesis

Title: Nemesis
Author: Jo Nesbø
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 474 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Nemesis - US
Nemesis - UK
Nemesis - Canada
Rue Sans-Souci - France
Die Fährte - Deutschland
Nemesi - Italia
Némesis - España
  • Norwegian title: Sorgenfri
  • Translated by Don Bartlett

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable read, even if too many pieces fit too conveniently together

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly B 14/1/2009 Thom Geier
The Independent . 24/4/2008 Tone Sutterud
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/1/2009 Marilyn Stasio

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nesbø has a knack for Euro noir, but this 474-page behemoth could be much tauter" - Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

  • "As usual in Nesbo's crime novels, things are not quite what they seem. The plot twists and turns like an artfully constructed labyrinth; just as you think you've got it, you turn another corner and the landscape changes. His human insight is spot-on, whether into bent cops, nosy neighbours or shady players on the fringes of society." - Tone Sutterud, The Independent

  • "But to keep everything moving for almost 500 pages (and even with a crisp, clean translation by Don Bartlett), Nesbo falls back on coincidence and some other questionable devices. The problem isnít that he fails to tie up all his story lines, itís that he does it so carefully and neatly that the plot machinery is revealed for what it is -- machinery." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Harry Hole is back in Nemesis. Still bothered by the open questions surrounding his partner Ellen's murder (in The Redbreast), he nevertheless quickly finds a new police-mate whom he feels tolerably comfortable with in Beate Lønn. Harry is a good cop, but for the most part not a great colleague. He's the kind of loner cop who:

didn't dislike his colleagues on principle; he disliked them by instinct. And, as the years went by, it was getting worse.
       But readers will likely find themselves feeling like his boss (and one big supporter on the force) does:
He liked the alcoholic, obstreperous, stubborn bastard.
       Two events set things rolling. There's a woman, Anna, who is found dead; it looks like (and is pretty quickly written off as) a suicide but Harry knows better. For one, he had been to her apartment the night of her death. But unfortunately he has no memory of what happened ..... Then there is the very professional bank robber who cold-bloodedly (and, it would seem, unnecessarily) kills a teller while pulling off a job.
       It gets complicated and convoluted fast. Anna is a gypsy, and a man with lots of the answers -- but also his own questions and demands -- is an imprisoned gypsy (specialising in bank jobs ...) who is incredibly well-connected and can get a lot done with the snap of his fingers, even from inside the joint. But he and Harry warily understand each other, and, despite a few stumbles along the way, manage more or less to work together.
       Harry has enough clout to get to pursue his investigation his way -- meaning: definitely not by the book. He knows talent when he sees it and allows Beate on his team, but she comes with her own set of baggage -- mainly in the form of a father who was a policeman and who was killed during a bank robbery ..... Beate also has an odd talent: part of her brain -- the fusiform gylus, as Nesbø reminds us several times too often -- is far better developed than most, leaving her with the freakish ability to: "remember all the faces she has seen in her life". It's a useful ability, and does help on this case -- but can also be a dangerous one, as it happens she might have seen someone around the time of Ellen's murder .....
       Nesbø's complicated but almost never too convoluted plot includes detours to Brazil and Egypt (in search of a computer server and e-mail address), the deaths of several more-or-less innocents, some gypsy lore -- and Harry's girlfriend's custody battle in Moscow. A bit much, and all of it extremely neatly tied together. Still, Nesbø has a deft writing touch -- a shade lighter than Rankin, who can sometimes try too hard -- and his Harry is such a decent guy that it's hard not to root for him, even as he digs himself into yet another mess. And even as everything fits too neatly in place -- from the criminals' plans, which could have been derailed or at least upset by any number of far more likely everyday occurrences, to Harry getting himself saved from yet another scrape (or Rottweiler hanging on to his neck ...) -- it's still an enjoyable read.
       Nemesis has enough of everything -- action, certainly, but also a bit of moral depth and human Angst -- to make for a read that feels substantial enough without ever feeling heavy. There could be more to it, but for a pass-time read it's just fine as it is.
       And there's also one villain, already identified in The Redbreast, still on the loose at the end of this installment, and even if Harry and now Beate have his number they haven't nailed him yet, leaving a nice sense of anticipation for the next volume (at least for American readers; that book -- the fifth in the series --, The Devil's Star was actually the first Hole novel to be translated into English, but was only released in the UK).

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Nemesis: Reviews: Jo Nesbø: Other books by Jo Nesbø under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Norwegian author Jo Nesbø was born in 1960.

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