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An Introduction to Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo is a byword for outstanding Scandinavian crime fiction. But what makes him so special? What makes him different? What makes readers fall in love with his books?

At Dead Good we’re passionate about recommending brilliant books, so you never have to pick up a bad book again. What better way to provide some insight into these authors than to ask those who choose to work with them – making their books the best they can be – what it is that makes them so special. Together we can discover new voices.

To kick off this series we have Senior Editor at Vintage Books, Alison Hennessey. Alison explains what makes Jo Nesbo so special.

“I started work at Random House just over 8 years ago, a few short months before Harvill Secker published their first Jo Nesbo book.

At that point in time, I probably wouldn’t have described myself as a crime reader. I loved psychological thrillers or gothic mysteries – but a detective series? I wasn’t convinced. And then I read Jo’s books and was introduced to a completely different world from the one I’d imagined: a world of snowy Oslo streets and a charismatic, damaged detective with plots that were so full of twists and turns that I couldn’t put them down because I just had to know what happened. While ‘unputdownable’ is often trotted out in publicity pitches or book blurbs, I found myself actually using that phrase in conversations when I raved to people about the books. When Jo was still relatively unknown in this country, it felt like there were a select group of us who knew the secret of these ridiculously addictive books but then, with the publication of The Snowman, I started to see people reading his books on the tube or on the bus, or piling them into their baskets at bookshops and supermarkets. All of them wore a similar expression, an expression I was very sure would have been glimpsed on my face as I read: fierce concentration that was only broken when their mouths dropped open at yet another twist or revelation.

But what I really love about Jo’s books is that they aren’t just about the pace of the plot – they might be a breathless read, but they’re also a complex one. I love the fact that through them I’ve leant about the far right movement in Norway and about Norway’s involvement in the Second World War. Jo’s characters feel real to me and their individual stories are just as involving as the hunt to find a killer; there aren’t many crime books in which I feel genuinely shocked and saddened when certain characters are killed.

I think the reason for the books’ freshness and originality is Jo himself. He was a promising footballer as a teenager, worked as a stockbroker and was in a very famous band in his native Norway. He’s a regular mountain climber and has his own literary charity. When your life is that busy and full of excitement, it’s not entirely surprising that your books are the same!

The Bat is where Jo’s series begins – after all I’ve said about Oslo’s snowy streets, this one actually takes place in the sweltering streets of Sydney where Detective Harry Hole is sent to investigate the murder of a young Norwegian girl on her gap year. It’s the perfect introduction to a series that only gets better as it builds.”

A big thank you to Alison for giving us a glimpse into Jo Nesbo’s world and what makes his books so unique. We’ll be reviewing The Bat very soon.

For more information check out Jo Nesbo’s Website.

The First Harry Hole Thriller:


    I am in love with Harry! He is both lightness and dark. I love the way the landscape plays into the ambiance of the story line! Nesbo’s narrative is so succinct, never over written or under played. His villains are truly frightening….psychologically damaged characters. But,…..aren’t we all a little dark? I think that’s why you can’t put the books down. Harry Hole is definitely on the top of my most loved detective list!! Kudos to Nesbo!

    I am a native New Yorker. Jo Nesbo and “Arwry Ulay,” as HH is pronounced in Norwegian stimulated me to bring my wife and myself to Oslo where we stood and chatted with passers by on the corner of Harry’s street, then dined at Schroeder’s, his oft visited cafe’. Totally unnecessary, of course, but HH aficionado wannabes have a habit of doing irrational tasks like staying up day and night till the last page of each masterpiece…

    The Harry Hole series is just captivating from start to finish of each book. I listened to the Audiobooks starting at Redbreast through to the Snowman and then back to The Bat once it was released. I was fortunate enough to be living and working in Sydney while listening to The bat so could relate to most of the settings. I’ve since listened to The leopard which was just jaw droppingly amazing as well and as I’m moving to Bangkok soon I’m saving The Phantom until I get there… I believe part of it takes place there?
    What I would like to know is when Jo’s second book “Cockroaches” is going to be available in English and also as an Audiobook? Can’t wait 🙂

    Jo Nesbo has put somewhat Norway in the spotlight, Living in the southern hemisphere, Oslo happen to be half a world away from me, but every time I read one of Jo Nesbo novels it is just like I I take a walk along Oslo streets holding hands with Harry, and it pays using at the same time Google Earth Street View. I probably belong to just a very little bunch of people in Argentina who learned what “Akker Brigge” “Majorstuen” or “Holmelkollen” mean.

    Love the black humour combined with page turning engagement in Scandinavian crime fiction, the weather and landscape as a constant presence – even a protagonist – the co-existence of politics/social comment with an existential awareness – both seamlessly (mostly!) woven into the narrative and -particularly-the flawed, believable characters developed in the novels.

    The biggest problem I have now is the growing similarity of all the police protaganists and procedures in all the various novels written by different authors.

    Scandinavian authors – with all your talent – time for something new??

    I have tried to read one Jo Nesbo book and gave up about one third of the way through. I found it a real struggle.

    Jo Nesbo is without any doubt the best crime fiction author on the market today. Harry Hole is a brilliant character

    I love the way that in each Harry Hole novel we learn a little bit more about the character. Jo Nesbo has created such a complex person in Harry Hole.

    Alison is spot on – I would describe reading his books as exhilarating.

    brilliant author ..but far 2 long between new books

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