The Redbreast

 by Jo Nesbo



Caustic critic Joe Queenan once wrote, “There is no earthly reason a mystery or thriller needs to be more than 175 pages.  After a mystery writer passes the 200-page mark, it’s all ballast.”  I suppose there are exceptions to Queenan’s rule, but not in this case.  The Redbreast, Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo’s 500-plus-page marathon of serial killings and romance in frigid Oslo, is mildly interesting.  The characters are … mildly interesting.  The sole aspect of this plodding novel to avoid a been-there-done-that sensation is its background theme about Norway’s tortured history during WWII, a topic about which I knew little.

In 2004, Norwegian book clubs declared The Redbreast the “Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written.”  Across the border in Sweden, I’m guessing that Henning Mankell suppressed a chuckle.


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