Sunday, April 02, 2017

Review: THE BAT, by Jo Nesbo

The Bat (Harry Hole, #1)The Bat by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The trope of the tortured, alcoholic, obsessed homicide cop with a dark and terrible secret in his past has become so familiar as to elicit eye-rolling when I come across it again. But Jo Nesbo's first Harry Hole novel (although not the first released in the US) manages to rise above cliche. Harry is sent from the Oslo crime squad to sunny Australia to investigate the rape and murder of a Norwegian expatriate who was once a minor celebrity back home. There he encounters an Aboriginal police detective, a cross-dressing clown, and a winsome Swedish barmaid, among other interesting characters. Once revealed, the villain proves suitably chill-inducing, Harry battles the bottle as much as the killer, and all in all, it's a satisfying read. I've only read one other Hole novel, The Redbreast, which was frankly better than this. But this is still pretty good. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Review: THE SYMPATHIZER, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The SympathizerThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How many books do you know that win a Pulitzer Prize AND an Edgar Award for Best First Novel? I read about that and had to get this one. It did not disappoint.

On one level it's a spy story, but that's just one of the many layers to this book. It's also about national and racial identity, the warped reflection of those things in popular culture, The Vietnam War, love, loyalty, family...the list goes on and on, building to a tense climax that I found uncomfortably reminiscent of the darker passages that come late in Orwell's "1984." (There's even a rat, although not in a cage). Not sure I totally buy the book's denouement, but I'm still pondering that--which to me is the mark of a great book. It makes you think about it even when its done.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews


Trafalgar: Countdown to Battle, 1803-1805Trafalgar: Countdown to Battle, 1803-1805 by Alan Schom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating, if occasionally slow-moving, account of the political and military campaigns that led up to the famous battle that established British naval supremacy for generations. It does bog down a bit in detail sometimes, especially in the descriptions of Napoleon's preparation for an all out cross-Channel invasion of England. The descriptions of the personalities involved, however, are vivid, and the account of the climactic battle itself is one of the best I've ever read. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews