Discover the best Jo Nesbo Books with our insightful guide! From gripping crime thrillers to intriguing mysteries, explore the top picks and dive into the world of Nordic Noir. Uncover the must-reads, and find your next literary adventure.
Best Jo Nesbo Books Ranked
1. The Thirst
An admitted Tinder junkie was the murder victim. The investigative team is left perplexed by the one conclusive clue—fragments of paint and rust in her wounds.
Two days later, there is another murder: a lady of the same age, a Tinder user, in an eerily identical setting.
There’s just one man for this case, as far as the chief of police is aware. Harry Hole, though, has left the force. He made a vow to himself and the lady he loves that he would never turn back, especially after his most recent case put his loved ones in jeopardy.
However, there’s something about these killings that grabs his attention—a detail in the specifics that the police have overlooked. Harry describes hearing what he perceives to be “the voice of a man he was trying not to remember.” Now, in spite of all he risks and his assurances, Harry returns to his search for the creature that escaped and haunts him.
There is plenty of blood for everyone. After two murders with rust marks and puncture wounds in the victim’s neck, Oslo Police Chief Mikael Bellman summons retired investigator Harry Hole back to duty. Bellman is less concerned with apprehending the murderer than with bolstering his own resume in order to be appointed Minister of Justice in Norway.
The macabre nature of the deaths prompts a prominent psychologist to label the perpetrator a vampirist. (Interested readers will discover a lengthy section comparing the killer’s actions to those of a vampire.) When the killer is caught and apprehended around halfway through the book, you might wonder if there was an error. You’d be almost correct, because there’s more to the story than initially thought.
Harry Hole feels conflicted over the latest string of atrocities. His wife Rakel is severely ill, and Harry also works as a teacher at the police school. She does not want him to return to active service, but he believes he has a moral obligation to the inhabitants of Oslo to apprehend the killer.
In a beautiful touch of family unity, Rakel’s son Oleg is now a student at the same police academy. Oleg even joins in on the act, offering professional aid to Harry along the way.
All things considered, this is a fairly grim novel. There are numerous characters with skewed senses of morality. I fully credit Jo Nesbø’s imagination. I’ve gone to Norway several times for work and leisure and have never met a more pleasant and law-abiding people anywhere on the planet.
2. The Bat
Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to investigate a murder. As he gets closer to the murderer, Harry becomes concerned that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the crime.
The victim is a twenty-three-year-old Norwegian woman who is a little celebrity at home. Harry is allowed to offer aid, but he has strict instructions to keep out of trouble. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the primary detectives and a witness as he becomes more involved in the case.
Together, they realize that this is just the latest in a series of unsolved murders, and the pattern leads to a psychopath making his way across the country.
Episodes from Harry’s adolescence include anecdotes about his sister, his desire to be punished for a death he caused as a child but which others hushed up, and his family. These homey nuances contrast sharply with the life of Andrew Kensington, the Aborigine officer he works with.
Andrew, a member of the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal youth who were taken away from their parents and schooled by foreigners, has been doubly harmed by the loss of both his family and his culture.
Nesbo discloses much about Aborigine culture here, including myths and tales, beliefs, and value systems. While it is evident that the author is captivated by this society, these digressions do not forward the action and feel tacked on to the plot.
The story occasionally resembles a travelogue, with each trip to a new region of Sydney or outside of it detailed in vivid detail, but Nesbo provides enough blood and thunder to keep readers interested, even if they wonder where the sometimes rambling plot is heading.
The characters frequently “converse” in long paragraphs rather than delivering information through the give and take of normal conversation, making the dialogue seem unnatural in sections. For those who are familiar with the series, this one is worth reading, but if you are new to Jo Nesbo, I recommend starting with The Redbreast, which is perhaps Nesbo’s most engaging and challenging thriller, then working your way up. The Redbreast is situated in Norway, the nation Nesbo knows best.
Harry Hole isn’t doing well. Rakel, the only woman he has ever loved, has dissolved their relationship irrevocably. He’s been given a fresh start with the Oslo Police, but it’s in the cold case office, when all he wants to do is investigate cases involving Svein Finne, the serial rapist and killer that Harry helped put behind prison.
And now, Finne is free after more than a decade in prison, and Harry is certain, unreformed, and eager to pick up where he left off. But things are about to become worse. When Harry awakens in the morning after a blackout, drunken night with blood on his hands that is plainly not his own, it is only the beginning of what will be a waking nightmare unlike anything he has ever imagined.
Harry Hole has gone through a lot during his time with the Oslo police department. From battling his demons with alcohol abuse to hunting and being hunted by some very prolific serial killers, Harry has been brooding over the gritty and often paradoxical streets of Oslo for so long that it’s difficult to imagine what he’ll face next in his journey that will still feel fresh to dedicated readers.
Nesbo consistently manages to introduce new twists and turns in Harry’s life as a man and cop. As a novelist, he isn’t hesitant to take risks with Harry and other recognizable characters from the Hole books, and his ability to do so keeps readers wondering and interested.
If you enjoy Hole, you will love this book. Though devastating at parts and tough to read at others since Harry is frequently his own worst enemy, the plot will keep you wondering until the very end. Until the very end, I couldn’t figure out who “done it,” If you enjoy Scandinavian thrillers, you’ll appreciate Harry Hole and Nesbo’s latest book.
4. The Son
Sonny Lofthus has been in prison for over half of his life, serving time for crimes he did not commit. In exchange, he receives an endless supply of heroin—and a steady stream of fellow convicts seeking his Buddha-like absolution. Years ago, Sonny’s father, a corrupt cop, committed suicide rather than face discovery.
Sonny is now in the center of a corruption vortex, with prison officials, police, attorneys, and a desperate priest all conspiring to keep him stoned and imprisoned. After learning the tragic truth about his father’s suicide, Sonny flees and pursues those responsible for his own and his father’s deaths.
He is, however, being pursued by an uncountable number of adversaries. Two issues remain: who will approach him first, and what will he do when cornered?
As with all of Nesbo’s novels, there are twists, turns, and lightning bolts: a police inspector who went bad early on, one you wouldn’t expect, betrayals of best friends, two moles, not one, inside the police force, the father’s diary turning everything upside down, and a constant sense of tension throughout the book.
Another triumph for Nesbo! There’s even a happy ending.
5. The Kingdom
Roy and Carl, brothers from a small mountain hamlet, have spent their entire lives hiding from the darkness in their pasts—Roy by being still and silent, and Carl by fleeing far away. Roy assumed his younger brother was gone for forever. But Carl has huge ideas for his hometown.
When he returns with a strange new wife and a business opportunity that appears too good to be true, simmering tensions resurface, and unexplained deaths from the town’s past are investigated. Soon, influential people set their sights on bringing the brothers down by exposing their involvement in the town’s dark history.
However, Roy and Carl are survivors and no strangers to violence. As the town’s long-buried past comes to light, Roy will be forced to choose between his own flesh and blood and a destiny he never imagined conceivable.
At the end of the novel, I felt emotionally enmeshed, touched, sorrowful, and pleasantly gratified.
The stage is littered with bodies by the time the curtain falls. Does Nesbo view sad events as entertainment? He would be in good company. This custom stretches back to Shakespeare and even the Greeks.
Nesbo’s picture of Norway is weird, yet plausible. It is a progressive society that values democracy, but Nesbo’s town halls are filled with opportunists and petty tyrants. Norway prides itself on its socialist culture of solidarity, levying exorbitant taxes to fund generous public services and social insurance.
However, Nesbo’s stories are about ruthless selfishness and exploitation. The country is proud of its high standard of gender fairness, but Nesbo’s novels depict criminals who have an obsessive and violent hatred for women. Perhaps Nesbo’s Norway is a seemingly just country where the truth is hidden in its criminal activities.
Immerse yourself in the gripping narratives of Jo Nesbo, where every page is a thrilling journey into the unknown. His mastery of crime thrillers and mysteries is unparalleled, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with every twist and turn.
If you crave heart-pounding suspense and intricate plots, Nesbo’s books are a must-have addition to your reading list. Don’t miss the chance to experience the brilliance of this acclaimed author.
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6. Honorary Mention
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About the Author
Sarah Patel is an ardent reader and a lover of diverse narratives. Her curiosity drives her to explore books across multiple genres, from fantasy and science fiction to contemporary fiction and memoirs.
With a degree in Creative Writing, Sarah has a profound appreciation for storytelling and character development.