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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Crime Fiction

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett (Harper) Gripping and surprising, Nemesis is a nail-biting thriller from one of the biggest stars in crime fiction.

Grainy closed-circuit television footage shows a man walking into an Oslo bank and putting a gun to a cashier's head. He tells the young woman to count to twenty-five. When the robber doesn't get his money in time, the cashier is executed, and two million Norwegian kroner disappear without a trace. Police Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case.

While Hole's girlfriend is away in Russia, an old flame decides to get in touch. Former girlfriend and struggling artist Anna Bethsen invites Hole to dinner, and he can't resist a visit. But the evening ends in an all too familiar way as Hole awakens with a thundering headache, a missing cell phone, and no memory of the past twelve hours. That same morning, Anna is found shot dead in her bed. Hole begins to receive threatening e-mails. Is someone trying to frame him for this unexplained death? Meanwhile, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery.

As the death toll continues to mount, Hole becomes a prime suspect in a criminal investigation led by his longtime adversary Tom Waaler and Waaler's vigilante police force. Racing from the cool, autumnal streets of Oslo to the steaming villages of Brazil, Hole is determined to absolve himself of suspicion by uncovering all the information needed to crack both cases. But the ever-threatening Waaler is not finished with his old archenemy quite yet.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett (Harper) Police Detective Harry Hole has made a terrible mistake. An embarrassment in the line of duty has pulled him off his usual beat. Reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks, he reluctantly agrees to monitor neo-Nazi activities in Oslo. But as Hole is drawn into an underground world of illegal gun trafficking, brutal beatings, and sexual extortions, he soon learns that he must act fast to prevent an international conspiracy from unfolding.

Trapped in the crosshairs of the man with all the answers, Harry Hole plunges headlong into a mystery with roots deep in the past. His investigation takes him back to Norway's darkest hour—when members of the young nation's government collaborated with leaders of Nazi Germany. Dredging up a painful history of denial, Hole turns his attention to the Norwegian troops who fought for Adolf Hitler on the Eastern front. Branded by their countrymen as traitors, the soldiers who survived the brutal Russian winter—the hunger, fear, cold, grenades, and snipers—returned home as scapegoats of a nation's atonement. Sixty years later, old grudges and betrayals appear to have been laid to rest, until Hole realizes that someone has begun to pick off the surviving soldiers one by one.

With only his troubled, guilt-ridden conscience as a guide, Hole must move quickly through the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. But as his sanity slips in a slow burn of anger and alcohol, his mistakes continue to pile up. And if he fails to quicken the pace, Norway's darkest hour since World War II just might lie in the future.

In a tightly woven plot that takes readers from the icy steppes of the Russian front to a seemingly peaceful springtime in modern-day Oslo, Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø delves into a sinister national history with uncommon bravery. Transforming shades of moral gray into an explosive palette of characters, Nesbø holds readers in suspense until the final pages. His deft orchestration of parallel narratives knows no match in the genre, and his thematic reach exceeds even the most ambitious thrillers on the market. With the U.S. publication of The Redbreast, American readers will learn what European readers have known for a decade—that Nesbø's writing is "quite simply brilliant" (Weekend-Avisen, Denmark).

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett (Vintage Books) A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star — a pentagram, the devil’s star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil’s star is key to solving the riddle.


MURDER ON GOOD FRIDAY A LORD GODWIN NOVEL by Sara Conway (Cumberland House) As a first novel Conway offers us a good plot and good characters that are well-grounded picture of thirteenth-­century life. The sleuth Godwin is likely to be favored by many readers. Personally I hope we see further forensic excursions by the Lord and his author in the future.

Conway teaches ancient and medieval history at Edmonds Community College in Edmonds, Washington. Conway bases MURDER ON GOOD FRIDAY draws on actual thirteenth-­century events: accusations of ritual murder. In various towns throughout England, Jews were accused of murder in the suspicious deaths of young Christian boys. Skeptical royal justices often dismissed these charges, but, on occasion, Jews were found guilty and unjustly put to death. In some cases, the child murder victims were even venerated as saints, considered martyrs by their fellow Christians.

A mythology grew up where it was believed that Jews annually murdered a Christian boy by ritually crucifying him. Not unlike the mentality and hysteria that fueled the later witch trials, this phenomenon spread from England throughout the Continent and accusations continued well into the modern period. Today, in England's Lincoln Cathedral, one can still visit the tiny sarcophagus of little Saint Hugh. The Catholic Church no longer venerates him, but his tomb is a powerful testament to the fear and hatred of Jews, past and present.

 The body of young Alfred was discovered on Monday, March 30 in the year 1220. He had been strangled; however, his body bears evidence of a much more painful death. His palms bear puncture wounds. His left side has been pierced. This young child, a resident of the town of Hexham, England, lost his life on Good Friday. Tragically, the Jews of Hexham are being blamed for this horrible crime, but they insist they are not part of this ritualistic murder.

Why would someone kill a child on a day of religious celebration? And why would his body be marked in imitation of the crucifixion of Christ? Lord Godwin, Bailiff of Hexham and in the service of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is summoned to the scene to answer these questions. Amidst the townspeople's fury, Godwin, a battle‑weary ex-­crusader, sets out to find the murderer as a means of atoning for his part in the crusade and for coming back when his dearest friend and kinsman Aldan did not. Will he be successful? Can Godwin provide the people with a perpetrator before the mob kills the Jews?