This is my second Harry Hole novel--I began with the most recent, The Snowman
, receiving ecstatic reviews, and then jumped back to the earliest in the chronology (available in the States, anyway). Both books were enormously entertaining, right up until somewhat too-pat endings, not quite weak but weaker than the stronger set-ups.
Weaknesses first: in the last 50 pages of both novels, Nesbo moves from puzzle-building to spectacle; Hole runs around, villains create some last nefarious exercise, exposition is carefully, comprehensively spelled out. In many other writer's hands (I'm looking at you, Deaver), such an ending is a bit of generic OCD precision: the novels are clockwork magic tricks, and the conclusion allows the magician a chance to reveal all. Cleverness above all else.
What's a little--and just
a very little--frustrating here is that Nesbo has so many other strengths. Hole, and the other characters, are idiosyncratically elaborate in their quirks, histories, personal demons. There is a sly sense of humor they all display, but even better Nesbo too deploys a wit in descriptions and structure that is superlative. And the first 90% of these novels are glorious fractal patterns--images and narrative fragments which keep returning, revealing more and more as you proceed.
Basically, I loved both of these novels until an end which I merely enjoyed. I'll be reading more. I haven't hit one that quite ranks with Rankin or Mankell yet, but these are very good procedurals.