Introduction: Have you ever read an author whose books you loved so much, you just wanted to tell everyone (and I mean everyone) to read them? Jo Nesbo is that author for me. I discovered Nesbo’s Harry Hole series back in college, after devouring Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and desperately searching online for similar books to pick up. What I found was (to my mind) crime-reading perfection. Nesbo has been my favorite crime writer ever since, and I'm thrilled to help connect you with his newest book, THE THIRST, through this review. At the bottom of this post, you'll find a "Frequently Asked Questions" section that addresses some of the most common questions I receive about Jo Nesbo's books!
Without further ado: the review I’ve been most looking forward to write for CBTB, on my most-anticipated 2017 read—THE THIRST by Jo Nesbo.
THE THIRST by Jo Nesbo
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: crime fiction at its finest - gritty, addictive, atmospheric, and emotional
Nordic Noir’s reigning king is back. After a few forays into novella-writing (BLOOD ON SNOW and MIDNIGHT SUN), Nesbo has returned to his internationally-bestselling Harry Hole series—and this crime reader couldn’t be happier. THE THIRST is everything readers have come to love and expect from Nesbo: it’s gritty, it’s brooding, it’s violent, and it’s just plain addictive. Readers new to the Harry Hole series will love this story for its gripping case and driving pacing; longtime fans of Nesbo’s books will feel as though they’ve come home to long-lost friends. It might only be April, but I’m already calling it: Nesbo has written my favorite book of 2017.
The murder victim, a self-declared Tinder addict. The one solid clue—fragments of rust and paint in her wounds—leaves the investigating team baffled.
Two days later, there’s a second murder: a woman of the same age, a Tinder user, an eerily similar scene.
The chief of police knows there’s only one man for this case. But Harry Hole is no longer with the force. He promised the woman he loves, and he promised himself, that he’d never go back: not after his last case, which put the people closest to him in grave danger.
But there’s something about these murders that catches his attention, something in the details that the investigators have missed. For Harry, it’s like hearing “the voice of a man he was trying not to remember.” Now, despite his promises, despite everything he risks, Harry throws himself back into the hunt for a figure who haunts him, the monster who got away.
There’s no better place to start with this review than with Nesbo’s infamous main character, the troubled and endearing Harry Hole. Harry is the ultimate crime fiction protagonist - and he’s exactly the kind of character that makes me love Scandinavian crime fiction so much. Objectively speaking, Harry is not a good guy. He puts those he loves in harm’s way, he breaks the law, he disobeys orders from his superiors—his character is messy and broken, yet I totally love him. Yes, Harry’s flaws are dramatized, but they’re fundamentally human, and that’s what makes him such a relentlessly endearing character.
Take this example from THE THIRST. Readers pick up with Harry where they left off in the previous Harry Hole book, POLICE—Harry and Rakel are now married. In THE THIRST, Nesbo takes this opportunity to delve into how Harry Hole, damaged and broken man that he is, reacts to this newfound stability. To someone like Harry, family life just doesn't come easily—his natural state is high-stress, high-anxiety, and high-stakes—and I loved that Nesbo challenges his main character with these circumstances that are really so ordinary. Harry's tenuous grasp on happiness is challenged throughout THE THIRST, and I loved seeing this new dimension of a character who I've gotten to know so well over the course of Nesbo's series. In THE THIRST, Harry enters the novel with a meditation on what it means to be happy:
Some people refer to books as an escape, but I’ve always thought they’re more like mirrors to their readers. It’s a truly unsettling and eye-opening thing to read a passage from a fictional character’s perspective that strikes a chord with you. This is what Nesbo does so well, though—he writes unparalleled crime fiction, yes, but he also writes truly compelling characters that get under your skin. I don’t think I’ll be the only reader to find something relatable in Harry Hole’s discomfort with his newfound happiness—and whether or not it strikes a chord with you, I can guarantee you’ll be riveted by the personal trials Harry goes through in THE THIRST. We all know that Harry isn’t destined for a happy ending, and Nesbo puts him through the ringer both physically and emotionally in his newest series installment. I was glued to every page of Harry's dark and twisting journey.
Beyond the appeal of Harry Hole as a character, THE THIRST is just top-notch crime writing. The police investigation at the core of this story is completely gripping: women are being murdered by a killer who appears to use Tinder as his hunting ground… and who literally has a taste for blood. Without spoiling any of the gory details, I’ll just say that this case is probably one of the bloodiest that Nesbo has written—and one of the most of-the-moment, with its tech-savvy serial killer. I will admit, I was a little bit nervous when I first learned that this book deals with the topic of vampirism. I couldn’t imagine exactly how this would fit into a Harry Hole book, but I actually found this element of the story totally entertaining and deliciously frightening.
True to Nordic Noir, THE THIRST draws readers into a dark police investigation that unravels methodically. This book does start out slower, but Nesbo is just laying the foundation for what will become a twisted and breathless journey into the mind of a depraved killer, and into the demons that haunt Harry. THE THIRST is a dark and addictive cat-and-mouse chase, with Harry facing off against a vicious serial killer with deep ties to Harry's own past. And this book's ending... just you wait. I had goosebumps, my jaw hit the floor, I gasped out loud—all of those cliches are true in this case. Combine Nesbo's razor-sharp plotting with his vivid and complex characters, and THE THIRST reconfirms Nesbo's dominance of Scandinavian crime fiction. THE THIRST is brutally violent, masterfully plotted, and laced with melancholy—it’s all that Nesbo’s readers could hope for.
If you’re new to Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, I do think you can dive in with THE THIRST, but you will be missing out on a bit of background information. While the case in THE THIRST is technically a standalone, this book marks the return of one of Harry’s greatest nemeses—a man who terrorized his fellow police officers in POLICE. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t dive into THE THIRST - you absolutely should! Just be aware you might need to do a bit of background reading on this particular character to get the full picture.
I could go on and on about this book, but for your sake, I’m going to call it quits here. THE THIRST marks the return of my all-time favorite fictional character, and I couldn’t be happier to be back in his twisted world. Longtime Nesbo fans will fall instantly back in step with his brilliant crime writing, and I can guarantee that THE THIRST will win Nesbo new fans worldwide. THE THIRST is masterful, brilliant crime fiction—in short, it's been worth the wait.
Disclaimer: I am an employee of Penguin Random House. All opinions my own.
Book Details: THE THIRST by Jo Nesbo
Series: Harry Hole Series
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Knopf (May 9, 2017)
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Frequently Asked Questions
I love hearing from you with your Nesbo questions! Please feel free to email me directly with any questions, or check out my Nesbo FAQ’s below.
1. I’m a new Nesbo reader! Where should I start with this series?
I recommend starting with either THE REDBREAST (Book 3 in the series) or THE SNOWMAN (Book 7 in the series and my personal favorite!) You can find my full explanation for these suggestions in my Beginner’s Guide to Jo Nesbo.
2. Do the Harry Hole books have to be read in order?
I’m personally a fan of reading book series in order, and I would recommend it for the Harry Hole series as well. BUT: that being said, each book is a standalone investigation, so you can hop around in the series if you so choose! Just be aware that you'll be missing out on some character development if you do so.
3. What’s your favorite Jo Nesbo book?
THE SNOWMAN, hands down! As an added bonus: it’s going to be made into a movie starring Michael Fassbender in October!
4. Ok but… how do you pronounce Harry Hole’s name?
5. What about Nesbo’s standalones? What’s the deal with those? Which one is your favorite?
I give a run-down of Nesbo’s standalones in my Beginner’s Guide to Jo Nesbo. My personal favorite is BLOOD ON SNOW.