If you follow me on Instagram, you might've spotted that I recently had a moment of realization: for all the time I've spent talking about my love of Jo Nesbo, I haven't given you a proper introduction to all that Nesbo has to offer! Naturally, I had to rectify this as soon as possible.
Here you'll find my "Beginner's Guide" to my all-time favorite author, Jo Nesbo. This post contains a whole bunch of resources to help you get started with Nesbo's works, including:
- A video overview of Nesbo's books which originally appeared on my Instagram
- A summary of Nesbo's Harry Hole series, including a book list + buy links
- An overview of Nesbo's standalones, including my key thoughts on each
- A reminder of what's to come for Nesbo in 2017 & beyond!
As always, you can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you might have.
Video: Overview of Nesbo's Books
This video originally appeared on my Instagram stories on 3/1/17
Follow @crimebythebook on Instagram for more videos like this!
Intro: The Harry Hole Series
Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series is one of the essential series within the Scandinavian crime fiction genre—and it's my personal favorite. No matter how widely I read within crime fiction, nothing tops this series for me.
Nesbo's series is unparalleled for its addictive plotting, gritty atmosphere, and vivid, engaging characters. Above all the fantastic elements to love about this series, #1 is main character Harry Hole. Harry is probably more aptly called an antihero than a hero, and I love him all the more for it. He's a burdened, troubled man who is also inherently good: he never stops trying to keep his inner demons at bay, and he's utterly committed to helping others when he's able to.
Where to start reading the Harry Hole series: I get this question all the time, and the way I see it, you have two options. Bear with me here while I explain.
OPTION 1 - IF YOU'RE NOT SURE ABOUT READING A WHOLE SERIES: Begin with my personal favorite series installment, THE SNOWMAN. This is the perfect way to see if this series is for you, before you commit to reading it all the way through. You can read THE SNOWMAN as a standalone—you might have a few questions about characters' backstories, but overall, there really won't be an issue! If you love THE SNOWMAN, I recommend going back and starting the series from Book 3, THE REDBREAST - you'll want to experience the character development that occurs over the course of the books. Bonus: THE SNOWMAN is being released as a feature film this fall in the US, so you'll be prepared!
OPTION 2 - IF YOU'RE A TRADITIONALIST: Begin with Book 3, THE REDBREAST. I repeat, begin with Book 3. I know the temptation is strong to start with Book 1, but trust me on this. Nesbo is my most favorite author, and even I have to admit, Books 1 (THE BAT) and 2 (COCKROACHES) just do not do the rest of the series justice. Book 3 (THE REDBREAST) is what hooked me on this series: its ending gives readers a sense of the addictive, tense, suspenseful plotting that Nesbo masters throughout the rest of the series.
** If you really feel that you must read from the beginning, please just take Books 1 and 2 with a grain of salt! Don't get me wrong: they're in no way bad reads. But they aren't exceptional, and the rest of Nesbo's series truly is.**
Can you read these books as standalones? To expand on my previous mention of THE SNOWMAN - you can read these books as standalones. Each book deals with a different investigation, so it is possible to jump into the series wherever you'd like. That being said, I definitely recommend reading the books in order (starting with Book 3, like I mentioned before!) - while each book has its own case for Harry to investigate, there is a lot of character development across the series that you won't want to miss out on! There are also recurring references to past criminals Harry has hunted down that might confuse you if you jump around within the series.
SERIES BASICS & BOOK INFO
Primary Setting: Oslo, Norway
Main Character: Police Investigator Harry Hole (pronounced "HO-leh")
Number of Books: 11
Harry Hole Series Book Order
A star (★) next to the title means it's one of my personal favorites in the series!
Nesbo's Harry Hole series might be what he's best known for, but he has some really excellent standalone crime novels as well! Here you'll find a brief synopsis of each, plus my thoughts on which to prioritize in your reading list.
- HEADHUNTERS (2011): Readers meet Roger Brown, a corporate headhunter who happens to dabble in art theft. His career can't support he and his wife's luxurious lifestyle, so when Roger meets a potential candidate for a CEO position he's filling, and that man happens to mention a very expensive painting that he owns, Roger decides to put his hobby to use. But when he breaks into the candidate's apartment, he discovers he's bitten off much more than he can chew. This book is darkly funny, a caper story that belongs in the movies—and actually has been turned into a film!
- My thoughts: not my favorite of Nesbo's standalones, but a quick, off-beat read laced with darkness.
- THE SON (2014): A story of far-reaching corruption. Sonny Lofthus is a rather strange young man. He's been in prison for nearly half his life, and he's complacent about it. This might be due to his drug addiction: even in prison, he somehow manages to have an uninterrupted supply of heroin. Oh, and he's serving time for other people's crimes. But as long as he gets his drugs, he's happy to play the criminal. But when Sonny learns a shocking secret about his father, a man who took his own life after being exposed as a corrupt cop, Sonny executes a brilliant escape from prison—and begins hunting down those who have kept him imprisoned all these years.
- My thoughts: not typical subject matter for the books I choose to read, but Nesbo is brilliant when writing about these themes of revenge and corruption.
- BLOOD ON SNOW (2015): A dark, lyrical standalone novel. Olav is a "fixer" for one of Oslo's most powerful and ruthless crime bosses. Olav is the best at what he does, but he's also a complicated man. He has a huge capacity for love—almost as big as his talent for murder. When Olav begins to try and separate himself from his gruesome profession, he discovers that his boss won't let him go so easily.
- My thoughts: I absolutely loved this book, and its companion, MIDNIGHT SUN. This book is unlike Nesbo's previous works—it still touches on very Nesbo themes, but does so in a totally different way. This book is emotional and delicate and truly a beautiful, if also violent, read.
- MIDNIGHT SUN (2016): A companion read to BLOOD ON SNOW. MIDNIGHT SUN introduces readers to Ulf, a former "fixer" for a crime boss called The Fisherman. Ulf has left his employer, and is now running north to escape his boss' reaches. Ulf comes upon a strange community up north, where the locals embrace him and invite him into their lives. As he waits in fear for his boss' men to track him down, he discovers redemption in this small community.
- My thoughts: I loved this book almost as much as BLOOD ON SNOW. I just love that these stories show a more delicate side of Nesbo as a writer. You do NOT have to read BLOOD ON SNOW before this one - but I do recommend it, as BLOOD ON SNOW is my favorite of the two! Read my review here.
New Nesbo in 2017 & Beyond
Last but certainly not least, there are a few very exciting things for Nesbo fans to look forward to in 2017 and beyond!
NEW HARRY HOLE: On May 9, 2017, Knopf will be releasing Book 11 in the Harry Hole series, THE THIRST. It's no surprise that this book sounds absolutely fantastic! It finds Harry hunting down a serial murderer who is using Tinder to trap his victims - a case that finds him crossing paths with a nemesis from his past.
HARRY HOLE FEATURE FILM: On October 13, 2017, THE SNOWMAN (my personal favorite Harry Hole book!) will be released as a feature film starring Michael Fassbender! As if you needed another reason to read this exceptional book.
HOGARTH SHAKESPEARE - NESBO RETELLS MACBETH: I've been counting down to this book for literally years now - the project was announced in 2014! The Hogarth Shakespeare library has signed on a number of internationally-bestselling authors to retell some of Shakespeare's greatest works, and Nesbo will be retelling Macbeth! This book is coming in April 2018.
That's a wrap on my beginner's guide to Jo Nesbo! Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions. I can't recommend Nesbo's book highly enough, and I hope this guide will inspire you to check out his books for yourself!