Books Reviewed / Mystery

Thriller Thursday: That Time I Entered The World of Noir Crime Fiction: A Book Review

Thriller Thursday: That Time I Entered The World of Noir Crime Fiction: A Book ReviewThe Bat by Jo Nesbø, Don Bartlett
Series: Harry Hole #1
Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on 2 July 2013
Genres: Adult Mystery
Pages: 369
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.

Have you ever stepped out of your reading comfort zone? I don’t usually because I enjoy staying in “my happy place” when it comes to escaping through reading. Still, I think its good to step-out once in a while and see what you might find. Earlier this year I decided to step out of YA and try to dip my toes in Mystery/Thriller/Crime Fiction. I had been following Abby at Crime by the Book on Instagram for a while and was inspired to start reading Crime Fiction from her posts. I had a sort of light bulb moment because I watch nothing but crime TV, so why wouldn’t I read Crime Fiction?

My first adult mystery book for the year was The Killings At Badger’s Driftthe first book of the Chief Inspector Barnaby series that inspired the British TV Show, Midsomer Murders, which I’ve been slowly binging on Netflix. From there I went to Abby’s blog for inspiration on what to read next. She recommends a few of her favorite series/books, one of which was the Nordic Noir series–Harry Hole by Jo Nesbø. The first book in the Harry Hole series was The Bat. I devoured it pretty quickly and ended up really loving the Nordic Noir genre. I’ve since been hooked on the Mystery/Thriller/Crime Fiction genre and have been picking up more and more adult thrillers/mysteries.

Since I’ve started delving into this genre, I thought I’d dedicate a day of the week to my reviews of these fast-paced, suspenseful novels. So begins, Thriller Thursdays! Starting off this new series here on the blog, I thought I’d leave you all with my thoughts of the mystery book that started off my new reading obsession: The Bat by Jo Nesbø (translated by Don Bartlett).

cover of jo nesbø the bat
 Library Book Borrowed
Nordic Noir Crime Fiction   
 Vintage Books (Random House)
Published: 2012 (translation); 1997 (org. pub.) 
 369 pages
Place: Amazon,  B & N, Book DepositoryGoodReads, IndieBound

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction.


I was a little unsure going into The Bat. I hadn’t read much mystery let alone any Noir mystery, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Bat begins with Harry Hole arriving in Australia to help the local detectives with a case concerning a Norwegian woman. The beginning is a little slow in terms of action and instead seems to focus on introducing readers to Hole’s character as he interacts with Australian detectives, witnesses and other secondary characters. While the pace does pick up towards the second half of the novel, by the end of the book, it’s easy to say that this novel was really character driven. But that isn’t a negative with this book.

photo of me holding a copy of jo nesbø the batThroughout the novel I really got a good sense of who Harry Hole was as a person and as a detective. Nesbø does a good job of interweaving Hole’s past with the current events taking place within the novel. What I loved a lot about this novel being character driven and Nesbø’s presentation of Hole was that Hole as a character wasn’t stagnant or rising in one direction. Hole was a complex character that wasn’t always walking the moral high ground some heroes do. Instead, he faltered and had imperfections. This definitely made Hole a relatable character and also made the story more enjoyable since everything was told from Hole’s point of view. Furthermore, I know going into book two that I’ll be reunited with a familiar character.

Another aspect of Nesbø’s writing that I loved was his ability to seep me into the setting and culture of Australia. I really felt transported to the country along with Hole.The setting really added to the novel as well as the darker atmosphere Nesbø seemed to be creating for the story. I also enjoyed reading about some of the injustices that the Aboriginals in Australia were/are facing as well as learning more about Aboriginal culture through some of the characters.

Before you know it, Nesbø has entrapped you into his grittier world!

As I mentioned above, the beginning of the novel was rather slow for me pacing wise. A lot of this had to do with the focus of the story being more character driven than plot driven. Additionally, my inexperience with Nordic Noir as a genre and my need to adjust to this type of storytelling also brought down the pacing for me. Soon, though, I found the rhythm of the story and the atmosphere it was creating. It was definitely a dark atmosphere (as I mentioned above) and while the crimes didn’t seem overly bloody in description, they still hit hard. Nesbø’s writing drew me in before I even knew it. While I was pushing through the first half of the novel, Nesbø was entrapping me in his world and Harry Hole’s mind.

By the second half of the novel, the pacing really picked up. Now I was embroiled in the case through Hole’s eyes and I desperately wanted to find out what was happening! The novel ended up having a lot of twists and turns towards the finish–most of which I wasn’t really expecting. I’m very glad I stayed with the novel until the end!

Overall, I really enjoyed the realistic and rawness of the story, especially when it came to Hole as a character and some of his choices throughout the novel. This type of crime fiction won’t be for everyone. It’s not your “happy-ending” novel that one might find watching an episode of Castle. Instead,  it’s a hard-hitting mystery with dark moments, questionable decision-making, and some sad results. But Nesbø really knows how to capture his audience and this book left me wanting more! I’d really recommend it for anyone who likes crime fiction or anyone venturing into the crime fiction/mystery/thriller genres. I’m excited to explore Nordic Noir some more and to pick up the next book in this series as well!

five stars

Have you read The Bat? What’s your take on Harry Hole? Have you ever stepped out of your reading comfort zone? Are you a mystery lover & have a recommendation for me? Let me know all your thoughts below in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

Happy Reading!

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