In steaming hot Bangkok, Norwegian detective Harry Hole is tasked with investigating the death of the Norwegian ambassador. He’s been found in a seedy motel room and the powers that be in Norway have decided that Hole, with his alcohol problems, is the man to tie up the loose ends quietly. Except it’s never like that with Hole…
Written in Norwegian in 1998 but not released in English until 2013, this is Book Number Two in the Harry Hole series. Who knows why the order is off centre, but for Hole fans, this is still a good read, even though you may know where the character is going.
All the characteristics are here, the relentless drive, the weakness for alcohol and drugs, the ability to attach significance to even the smallest thing, the lone ranger attitude.
It’s nice to see Hole in different surroundings to the relentless greyness and cold of Norway. The setting couldn’t be hotter and Hole’s height, pale colour, and difficulties with the language and the heat actually make for a lighter feel than you would usually associate with this series.
Bangkok provides an atmospheric backdrop. With its heroin dens, brothels, children for sale, ex-pat community, pole dancing, and traffic gridlock, the noise and humidity hop off the page as Hole upsets both the Thai underworld and the ex-pat community with his questions and disregard for status.
The ambassador’s wife and daughter and the lonely embassy staff, the intricacies of relationships within the hotbed of the embassy, the blurred lines between opportunism and immorality – these are all drawn with Nesbo’s usual accuracy. Not knowing any Thai people, it’s impossible to comment on his characterisation of them; however, the book does recall a previous visit to Bangkok, so the city’s heat, squalor and crowdedness rang true for this author.
For all that, it’s not a novel that lingered in my mind. In between reading session, my mind didn’t drift back to the plot, wondering how it was going to play out. So, yes, it was an enjoyable read in terms of colouring in Hole’s character a little – but not a lot – more.