Nordic Noir ~ Harry Hole & Jo Nesbo ~ What is Nordic Noir ?
Having just read Jo Nesbo's latest thriller which is firmly rooted in the hot craze in Crime Fiction that is Nordic Noir I thought we'd take a quick look at the book Phantom, the main series character, Harry Hole and the genre itself . . .
There's something going on in the ''Scandiwegian'' - Nordic countries . . . everybody who lives there is writing crime fiction!
They say it all started with the colossal worldwide success of Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but those who know better would say it was with Henning Mankell and his Detective, Kurt Wallander - those who know perhaps a little more than that would cite Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.
Nowadays, it seems as though every author who writes a Detective Fiction or Thriller Book whilst a flake of snow may have fallen is "The Next Stieg Larsson" . So they're all billed, and most annoyingly for Jo Nesbo so has/is he also labelled - quite unfairly because Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole stand on their own two Nordic Noir snow shoes.
I''ve read all his books now, Phantom being his 2012 latest novel, and they really are good, vastly superior to many other novels in the Nordic Noir genre.
As with all crazes, it seems like publishers scooped up every author in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Scandinavia et al following the success of The Millennium Trilogy, quality of writing seemed to take second place to country of origin !
Henning Mankell is quite simply superb, top of the shop, Kurt Wallander is the archetypal dark and laconic character we've come to associate with the now over-burdened genre.The books are very dark in places, superbly plotted and truly quality literature.
Stieg Larsson produced three highly enjoyable and readable thrillers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets'' Nest, featuring Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The prose is clunky though and whilst fine thrillers they're not great in literary terms, although in this genre I'm always wary about translations quality, I believe the translator should be born to the language they're translating into. That means they miss some nuance from the original language text but they get the feel and language correct for the reader of the translation - there is some really clumsy prose when you see it done the other way round.
Back with Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole; Phantom is an excellent book, I'm not sure whether it's his best or not, I wouldn't like to say but it is very well written.
All of his books are good and well worth reading, vastly superior to the likes of Hakan Nesser for example but this one seems particularly well done - not in terms of being a thriller, a staggering plot line or an amazing denouement but in character portrayal.
Because it's Detective Fiction, Crime Fiction, a Mystery Thriller, or indeed Nordic Noir, call it what you will . . . it means it will not be regarded as quality literature by some in literary circles!
That's a shame, well, it's an outrage really . . .
Jo Nesbo portrays drug addiction, the life of an addict and the everyday day battle of an alcoholic avoiding relapse, Harry Hole himself, better than I've ever read before! It's very subtly done, not thrust down the readers throat as though it were the author's own bandwagon - beautifully done.
Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole may not take you to Norway as Mankell and Wallander transport you to Sweden but he takes you right to a man's battle with alcohol and the life of a drug addict, it really is done quick sublimely.
That's a brief look at Nordic Noir and a review of the latest Harry Hole book by Jo Nesbo, perhaps it's encouraged you to give Nordic Noir a test drive - I do hope so.
Layout © R.D. Collins 2012 - republished 2023
Detective Fiction History - Articles
Dust Jacket Artists
Books Wanted Bibliography Dust Jacket Artists Crime Fiction