I have completed my Harry Hole challenge! It took me three weeks and 5 days to read all ten books in the series having read them all (and re-read one of them) I can safely say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. As I finished The Phantom and began to read Police (For now the final book in the series) I got so excited that I had reached this point and much as I wanted to read it so I could get back to the pile of other books that I have to read I didn’t want it to end.
I’ve read in reviews that some people feel that Nesbø could do with a better editor but I never felt that re: the actual stories. Despite the length nothing seemed superfluous, the twists when they came felt rational and each book made me want to read the next one, I took a break three books in which was a mistake as when I was reading a book by a different author all I wanted to do was get back to seeing what Harry Hole was doing. I enjoyed getting to know Hole and the people around him, characters came and went and occasionally there was some frustration that maybe Nesbø didn’t quite know what to do with the interesting people he had introduced to the books, he kills them off, gives them interesting back stories but then they might not feature much (if) at all in the next book and if they do then it’s almost a cameo appearance during which their back story is repeated again before they disappear into the background again.
Hole himself is damaged but principled even if the thought of an alcoholic drug taking cop doesn’t quite fit the profile of a principled policeman. He has a few close friends, a woman who he truly loves and a chronic drink problem. He’s only tolerated because he is so good at his job – as he says in The Leopard all he wants to do is capture murderers, he doesn’t care about the politics inherent in the Police or climbing his way up the greasy pole and it’s this fundamental stubbornness that leads to his battles with the authorities, witnesses and the press. I liked him but at the same time God, he was a frustrating man.
Hole’s alcoholism is graphically written about and maybe this is one of the strongest aspects of the books. Nesbo writes unflinchingly about Hole and his drinking, the benders, the abstinence, the collapse back into drinking, the reactions of his friends and colleagues – it’s all there in some detail and I found it fascinating. Never once does Hole want sympathy for who he is, he is accepting of his alcoholism, it isn’t pleasant but it isn’t voyeuristic, it’s just honest and at times I found myself getting angry with Hole when yet again he reached for the bottle. Alcoholism is a disease but that doesn’t stop you getting angry with those who suffer with it cf George Best who at times has been eulogised but at other times in his life sympathy with his plight was in short supply.
The only times I felt my incredulity button being pressed was perhaps with the amount of times that Hole was allowed to resign and then re-join the Police, the amount of leeway he was given throughout the series at times amazed me but the story arcs, the development of Hole and those around him was expertly done and when starting the tenth book it did feel like everything was coming together but there was also the feeling that things wouldn’t go smoothly and the reality is that I didn’t want them to!
I’m am really glad that I waited to read the books from the beginning (with the exception of The Snowman which I read 4 years ago due to my incompetence) – I read a review on Goodreads which said that English language publishers had ruined the series by not publishing them in order, you don’t need this to happen to you now. All ten are out in English and I’d a) recommend the series and b) insist that if you do that you read them in order.