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October 16, 2013 / schulerbooks

Police, by Jo Nesbø

9780307960498

Unsolved mysteries. Everyone in law enforcement knows they are a sad fact of life. Every detective has a number of cases he or she wishes they could have had more time with, or just one more, telling piece of evidence. But, sooner or later, even the best of detectives knows that they have to put the past in the rear window, and live for the case load of today.

However, some mysteries don’t lie quiet. And some demand their due.

It’s a nasty day in Oslo when a police officer is found, his head mashed to unrecognizable pulp by a blunt object. It’s a sickening crime as it is, but soon the police realize that a similar murder was committed in that exact same spot, some years ago.

And they also realize that the dead officer had been assigned to that very same, unsolved case.

It’s the start of a spate of deaths, all involving police officers who investigated unsolved, gruesome cases. In each instance, they are found in or around the spot where the original murders happened, and in more or less the same condition the original bodies were found in.

The media is going crazy, as one might expect. And as the papers froth and demand a resolution, so does the city. Unfortunately, the current head of Oslo’s police is a corrupt snake who’s one sorry misstep away from being rendered useless. His attempts to handle the situation have the opposite effect, and it’s all anyone can do to solve the case in spite of him, rather than due to his “efforts.”

Especially when he puts his personal “burner” on the matter — a disturbing and violent fellow who has plans of his own…

At a time like this, with up-top corruption and incompetence paralyzing the good people who could make a difference, and a ruthless and determined killer on the loose, someone like Harry Hole should come in to save the day — just as he’s done every other time. But where is he? No one seems to have any idea, and if they do, they’re not telling.

As such, it’s up to his friends and colleagues on the force to solve this mystery. But as the bodies pile up, and collateral damage becomes the rule of the day, it remains to be seen if even Harry can get them out of this.

Or if he even can…

As ever, Nesbo is a master of giving us a difficult puzzle to solve, one dense and atmospheric step at a time, and a flawed but likeable main character to take us there. That he does this while keeping us both darkly amused and at the edge of our seats — quite uncertain of who may live or die — is quite a feat, in and of itself.

But all that praise — quite common for Nesbo, these days — must take a back seat to the fact that, with Police, he has given us one of the best examples of how prose can help conceal the solution to a mystery. This novel is positively swirling with deceptions and misdirections, to the point where, after a certain point, even a longtime, near-jaded readers of European dark thrillers will be second-guessing his second guesses.

Indeed, while it’s often a cliche to say that a book kept its reviewers guessing, right up to the end, I can gladly assure you that it is not a trite statement. See what you make of the final revelation, and hopefully you’ll join me in hoping for yet another installment of what has become a must-read mystery series.

Police is out in hardcover, and available at all Schuler Books and Music stores.

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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