Monday, July 03, 2017

"The Thirst" by Jo Nesbo – Hunting on the Tinder Grounds

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo - front book cover

The Hunt for Lonely Hearts with Jo Nesbo

The idea of seeking out complete strangers to date through various mediums certainly isn't anything new. There are lonely hearts advertisements, dating clubs, a whole array of websites dedicated to specific demographics, and more recently phone applications. Upon hearing those words you're most likely thinking of the one everyone has been using lately: Tinder. Quick, simple and efficient, it has become an integral part in the lives of many people and it seems there are only more and more users on it every day. There is, of course, a downside to this approach: you might be able to try and meet with anyone you'd like, but you cannot control who intends on meeting with you.

In his latest book starring detective Harry Hole called The Thirst, Jo Nesbo has us chasing after yet another morbid serial killer, this one primarily finding his victims through Tinder. More precisely, two women were murdered in the same week under extremely similar circumstances, both of them self-proclaimed Tinder addicts. It doesn't take long for the cops to figure out how the killer found them, but apart from that they have virtually nothing to work with. Though Harry Hole has retired from the police force out of love and care for those near him, this is one case that keeps on tugging at his nerves and pulling him back in, bit by bit. He feels in his gut that there's something crucial the police missed, and what's more, he notices an inexplicable sensation of familiarity when looking at the case, as if the killer is someone he tried his damnedest to forget.

A Departure from the Roots

Jo Nesbo has been writing Harry Hole novels for some time now, and perhaps he feels the need to take a new direction or he may be losing touch with his character, but whatever the case there are some differences between what we get here and what we've come to expect from the author. To begin with, this story is gorier, bloodier and more explicit than the previous chapters in Harry's saga, and in some cases it feels gratuitous and unnecessary; as mystery fans we read these books to see questions answered rather than naturalistic exhibitions of human violence. This is, of course, more down to personal preference than anything, but I felt readers ought to be warned.

As far as the writing itself goes, I'm a bit saddened to say that Nesbo's humour and pop-culture references don't have the same effect as they used to, feeling dry and even out of place sometimes, as if the book was organized in a robotic manner with quotas to fill. There are a few instances where we get to see the brilliance of the Nesbo we're used to, but they aren't as numerous as we've come to expect. Part of it is due to the translation which could definitely have used to some extensive polishing, with translation mistakes, missing words and nonsensical idioms being found here and there. From a technical perspective, The Thirst is a bit of a jumbled mess that could be improved across the board with some proper editing.

Harry Hole's Tired

Now, setting all the technical aspects aside, let us look at the actual content of the story. In terms of the plot you'll be relieved to know that the murder mystery itself is on-par with what the author dishes out on average. It's engaging, brings up one question after the next, is filled with more twists and turns than you can count and ends with an interesting finale that won't leave you indifferent, whether you like it or not. While the development of certain plot threads does tend to become a bit predictable, on the whole Nesbo manages to keep you guessing by always withholding or revealing the right amount of information.

Now, I feel like Harry Hole as a character deserves a separate paragraph to himself. He is certainly a flawed individual who has come a long way since his first novel, but at this point it doesn't feel like he actually has anything left to offer. His angst is becoming less and less fascinating and slowly he's just turning into an old tired man who really only hopes for a quiet, happy and easy rest of his life. He was a fantastic character whose journey will certainly be remembered, but perhaps it is time to finally let him lead a life without constant serial killings and bring in fresh blood. Nesbo seems to have thought the same thing as he set up a potential new beginning for Oleg as a young but, needless to say, troubled detective.

The Final Verdict

All in all, I have to say that The Thirst isn't on the same level as Nesbo's other Harry Hole novels, in part due to the technically-lacking translation. This isn't the kind of book that you're going to remember, but if you are already a fan of Jo Nesbo, are acquainted with Harry Hole and looking to kill an evening or two with a murder mystery that will ultimately keep you entertained, then you'll probably get a fair amount of enjoyment out of this book.

Jo Nesbø (29 March 1960)

Jo Nesbø

Personal site

Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian musician and book writer who has gained a solid foothold in his native country, selling more than 1.5 million copies of his novels in Norway (9 million worldwide) and having them translated in more than 40 languages. One of his more famous books is The Headhunters, on which a very successful 2011 film was based.

More of the Jo Nesbo's book reviews:
The Son
The Leopard
The Redeemer
The Bat
The Snowman

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