Harry Hole vs. Harry Bosch

Jo Nesbo, The Devil’s Star (2005)

I was introduced to Norwegian police detective Harry Hole by Danielle’s enthusiastic review. Unfortunately the first of the series wasn’t available from the library, but this one can be read as a standalone. It is a very efficient, therefore very addictive police procedural. There are a lot of clichéd materials in this hunt for a serial killer across the sun-drenched streets of Oslo during a heat wave, but it never feels that way while reading it. Instead, the characterization and plot are very well mastered, so that it never feels contrived, although once you’re done, you realize that your suspension of disbelief has gone a long stretch… 

Harry Hole is your typical hard-boiled hero: an alcoholic, work-obsessed detective that stands up against his corrupt hierarchy and whose personal life is crumbling. He’s asked to resign from the police but only kept on this case because it’s summer and all the other detectives are on holidays. Norwegian background aside, he really reminded me of Harry (Hieronymus) Bosch, Michael Connelly’s hero (The Concrete Blond, Echo Park, City of Bones…). Although I’ve never met this kind of person in real life and probably wouldn’t like to, I have a soft spot for Harry Bosch: a scarred veteran from Vietnam, tough and intent on looking at evil without shirking around. Oslo and L.A. may be a world apart, but the two Harrys seem to have a lot in common, although the American one has more back history. Maybe I should go and read the two Harrys in parallel to make a more accurate comparison… 

I know that Nordic European crimes are all the rage right now, but I find Hole quite different from Henning Mankell’s Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Wallander expresses himself in a very terse way (which some people might find cold) but as a small-town inspector he has some elegiac reflexions about the evolution of Swedish society, while Hole, maybe because of his alcohol problem, or because he’s supposed to be younger than Wallander, is more hot-blooded but also more action-oriented. I have Mankell’s Return of the Dance Master unread on my bookshelf, but it’s written in German and I’m so lazy when it comes to reading with a dictionary…

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5 thoughts on “Harry Hole vs. Harry Bosch

  1. I’ve got Nemesis to read next and then will read The Devil’s Star last. I know what you mean by seeing at the end what a stretch it might be, but I enjoyed it enough not to mind. I’ve not read many other Nordic crime writers, but I do want to try some others out. Perhaps I’ll have to try out Harry Bosch as well!

  2. You and Danielle both are getting me curious about all these crime writers. Perhaps I should read Nesbo and do some cross-cultural comparisons with the crime novels I’ve been reading lately.

  3. Enrico C. – Italy

    I agree with you, the two “Harris” have a lot of similarities.. I’ve red all Connelly’s books and now I’m reading “The Leopard”…it’s a good book, the first thing I thought was that Jo Nesbo was inspired by Connelly’ detective Bosch.

  4. Pingback: Camilla Läckberg, The Hidden Child (2007, Eng. 2011) « Smithereens

  5. Pingback: The one with the missing Harry | Smithereens

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