Women are being murdered by a killer who uses Tinder as his hunting ground, who uses spiked iron dentures as his weapon of choice, and who literally has a taste for blood. Harry Hole has retired from the police force but he is lured back and begins a hunt for a particularly vicious serial killer.
If you haven’t encountered Harry Hole, he’s “Possibly the best, possibly the worst, but certainly the most mythologized murder detective in the Oslo Police” (91). When Hole appears at his first meeting of the investigative team, a former colleague reflects: “He may well have been Crime Squad’s drunk, arrogant enfant terrible, someone who had directly or indirectly cause the deaths of other officers, and whose working methods were highly questionable. But he still made them sit up and pay attention. Because he still had the same dour, almost frightening charisma, and his achievements were beyond question” (114). Harry is torn between keeping his wife content and his family safe and “his compulsive attraction to hunting murderers” (298). Does he have a “black heart” whose obsession with tracking down killers is a thirst “like a fire . . . [which] until it’s quenched, it’ll keep growing, devouring everything it comes into contact with” (154) or is he “a good person . . . [motivated by] the good herding instinct. With morals and responsibility towards everyone” (298)? It is this very conflicted Harry Hole who returns to detective work; as before, he disobeys rules and superiors, sometimes with very negative consequences.
This same colleague muses that, “Off the top of her head, she could only think of one person he had failed to catch” (114). Of course, it is this one person, the one who gets away at the end of Police, who challenges Harry’s skill as a detective. The killer leaves clues to his identity so that Harry knows, “’He wants to play’” (113), and the two are soon engaged in an intricate cat-and-mouse game. What follows is a very complex plot with lots of twists.
Unfortunately, I found some of the plot broke the bounds of credibility. Harry’s final encounter with the criminal mastermind, for example, had me shaking my head, as did the escape of a suspect from prison (147). The plot seems very contrived in places. A character’s illness, for instance, is just a ploy to add another suspect to the mix, and connections between characters are just too convenient. Almost everyone is made to be suspect and some of the red herrings are rather heavy-handed. And the intelligent Harry Hole makes decisions that are just plain stupid. He seems to have learned nothing from his previous mistakes because he, as in previous books, puts others in harm’s way.
This book can be read as a standalone, but readers who have read the entire series will have a better understanding of the complex Harry Hole and the developing relationships among characters. Certainly a reading of Police is recommended because this is really a sequel to it. Another Harry Hole book will definitely follow since the ending suggests a calm before another storm. Obviously, Harry’s personal life will continue to be complicated, especially when a character regrets, “There was something she should have told [Harry]” (456) when she thinks he is dead.
I have read all the Harry Hole books and I’ve enjoyed most of them very much. I feel like a traitor but I must say that this novel is a weak addition to the series.