Tough clueless cop: Nesbo's Redbreast

Scandinavian mysteries had been on a roll recently, and so I have read a few. Recently I read a book by the hot-even-by-Scandinavian-standards Jo Nesbo, The Redbreast, with his detective Harry Hole. As the works of Sieg Larssen show, these writers are all courageous enough to grit their teeth and finally admit that they dislike Nazis. Very daring of them.

The Redbreast actually has real Norwegian fascists fighting the Soviets in WWII.  In the modern day, Hole pursues one of those soldiers, as he bumps off a bunch of people in pursuit of...well, there's no reason to tell you, although I guarantee you will find his goal odd.

What's particularly odd, though, is how incompetent Hole and his fellow cops are. After an early scene where he demonstrates his knowledge and deductive skill by describing what someone must have done with a gun, he pretty much goes to sleep and gets whacked around the rest of the novel like a pinball. He never figures anything out, and never really understands anything.

Despite this, it was a fun book to read--a page turner, as they say. So Nesbo has a gift for promising things--he just doesn't have as much of a gift for delivering them.

Now, I don't need my detective to be Sherlock Holmes, but I do think I deserve one with a bit more on the ball than Hole has. Nesbo is also frustrating because he raises issues, like a juicy case of sexual blackmail by a character close to the case, which gets terminated quite unsatisfactorily, at least for me.

It's instructive for me, since I sometimes think about writing a mystery. You can get away with a lot if each individual scene is suspenseful and exciting, even if the scenes, taken together, don't make a tremendous amount of sense.