The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo - on sale Tuesday!
In all honesty, most of the fallible detective types in these crime novels I read all sort of blend together after awhile. "Wasn't that alcoholic, Scandinavian cop in that other book by that other guy?" This is by no means a knock on the authors or their books, just maybe a criticism directed at me, who can't seem to space these books out enough so that I can tell these characters apart. Anyway, the point is that none of this applies to Norwegian author Jo Nesbo and his unfortunately named, brilliant, alcoholic Oslo police detective, Harry Hole. The Devil's Star is the third of Nesbo's books to be translated into English and, I think, the finest in the series to date.
Normally, I wouldn't hesitate in steering a reader towards a book set later in a series if I really felt that the order to the books wasn't vital to understanding the plot - Henning Mankell's Wallander series, for example, doesn't really need to be read in order (especially as they were not published in the States in the correct order.) You do need to read Jo Nesbo's books in order, however, to better appreciate the political morass that is the Oslo police department and the tense undercurrent of hate flowing between Harry and his co-worker, Tom Waaler. In The Redbreast, Harry begins to suspect that Waaler isn't exactly Oslo's most honest cop, but the tension doesn't go farther than angry conversations and some bad blood. In Nemesis, Waaler is the title reference, as Harry begins to suspect that he has had a role in the death of a colleague and has elaborately set Harry up to take the fall. Everything comes to a head in The Devil's Star, as Harry is reluctantly paired with Waaler on his latest case, but can't let on that he has suspicions as to Waaler's corruption.
Without sacrificing plot for character, Nesbo manages to perfectly work this cranked-up tension between cops into this labyrinth of a crime novel. Harry is, like I said, a flawed man - by the events in TDS, he has managed to mangle his once-healthy relationship with his girlfriend, ostracize himself from most of his co-workers, and is steadlily drinking himself into oblivion. Ah, but he's still a great cop! When a girl's body turns up, missing an index finger and sporting a 5-pointed red diamond under her eyelid, Harry works through his hatred of Waaler to try and solve the case. He soon realizes that there is a pattern between this and several other Oslo murders - could a serial killer be at work? Coupled with the political tension, this novel crackles with intrigue, mystery, and psychological complexities - a great read for fans of Henning Mankell, Ken Bruen, Karen Fossum, Olen Steinhauer, Ian Rankin...the list goes on.