Jo Nesbø Harry Hole series

At first, I need to introduce you the author. Jo Nesbø (1960) from Norway is a writer and musician, he also used to be footballer and economist. Now he is one of the best writers of criminal genre books in Europe, maybe he`ll become this also worldwide. His work was translated in 40 languages and selling over 30 million copies all over the world.

The most famous work of Jo Nesbø is a Harry Hole series which contains 11 crime novels. The main character in novels is Harry Hole, police officer and detective who is working in Oslo Crime Squad and later also with the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos). Hole is a brilliant detective with often unordinary methods, he is also a chain smoker and heavy alcohol drinker. But instead of all that, at the end we all need to admit that he is very good at his work, actually far better than it seems.

By my opinion Jo Nesbø is one of the best authors of criminal genre books in Europe and maybe even worldwide. His books suck you into it and when you start reading you just can’t stop. These are the sort of books which you need to tell everyone around that they should read it. Definitely something worth to read!

The Bat (1997)

The story involves about Norwegian police officer Harry Hole who is sent to Sidney, Australia to serve as an attache for the Australian police’s investigation into the murder of a young female Norwegian celebrity. Her boyfriend is initially approached as a suspect. There are also some back stories about Harry`s past and culture in Australia.

Hole is assisted by Aboriginal colleague and together they found out that they are dealing with a serial killer who strangles blond women. As the story become more complex Harry struggles to find the killer and becomes more alcoholic. But the hunt for serial killer is on and nothing will stop Harry from finding the truth.

Cockroaches (1998)

Norway ambassador is found dead in a brothel in outskirts of Bangkok. Oslo detective Harry Hole is sent to help the Thai police to solve the case.

Hole soon discovers that there some secrets around this case. He uncovers tensions between career diplomats and political appointees as well as shameful secrets of ambassador`s family. His task is hard, to solve the case and to avoid the scandal before it goes in media.

Things get even more complicated, when Harry lays hands on some incriminating CCTV footage. A man who gave him the tape goes missing. Harry realizes that failing to solve the case means real danger.

The Redbreast (2000)

The novel begins during former president Clinton`s visit in Norway, he visited Israeli-Palestinian peace conference. Harry is reassigned to surveillance after a high profile mistake.

He is actually bored with his job until a report of a rare and unusual gun fire with very expensive rifle. This sparks his interests because of possible link with to Neo-Nazi activity. Later one former soldier is murdered by cut of his throat and then on Harry`s former colleague. Investigation leads him to suspect that crimes have their roots in the battlefields of World War 2, about 60 years ago.

The crime investigation leads him to South Africa and to Austria. Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole-and Norway’s darkest hour may still be to come.

Nemesis (2002)

How to catch a killer when you`re number one suspect? Pretty hard you guess it.

During a bank robbery in Oslo, a lone robber holds one hostage and threatens to kill her unless ATM is emptied within 25 seconds. Because it didn’t happen in such short time, he executes a hostage and flees. The case goes unsolved until a police video evidence expert, Beate Lønn, surmises from the footage that the robber and the hostage knew each other.

While Hole’s girlfriend Rakel and her son Oleg are in Moscow, Hole is invited to dinner with an old girlfriend named Anna. After a dinner and a drunken night with his ex girlfriend Anna, he wakes up at his home with headache, no cell phone and with no memory of past 12 hours. The same day Anna is found shot dead in her bedroom, which makes Hole the main suspect.

He begins to receive strange e-mails. Meanwhile, the bank robberies continue. Hole is forced to go on streets of Oslo in a race to solve two cases and clear his name.

The Devil`s Star (2003)

This is a story about very young woman who has been found dead in her Oslo apartment. Her finger was severed and under her eyelid was secreted the red diamond in a shape of five point star – pentagram (the devil star).

A wave of similar murders is then on horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil’s star seems to be the key to solving the riddle.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his ruthless and corrupt fellow police officer Tom Waaler and actually doesn´t want to be part of it. Harry is already on final warning about the job and doesn´t have much alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

The Redeemer (2005)

On the start of novel there is we see the description of incident which took place in 1991, at a youth camp in Norwegian Salvation Army. A young girl was raped on public toilet. Because of Army`s hierarchical setup and reputation a girl remains silent about the incident.

Twelve years later there is a Christmas concert in a square in Oslo, a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. A press photographer has caught a suspect on one of the photos of the concert. Beate Lønn, the identification expert, is confused by how the face can change from one photo to the next.

Inspector Harry Hole’s search for the faceless man takes place on the seamy side of the city, among those who seek eternal – or just momentary – redemption. But the gunman didn’t complete his mission yet.

The Snowman (2007)

In 1980, a married woman has illicit sex with a lover while her adolescent son waits in a car outside; their lovemaking is disturbed when they think somebody is looking at them from outside the window, but that turns to be only a tall of a snowman.

In November in Oslo the first snow has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes up in the night and find out his mother is gone. Then suddenly through the window outside he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day snowman with a pink scarf around his neck.

After the second woman disappears the detective Hole is sure something bigger is going on. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by an actual serial killer.

The Leopard (2009)

Following the traumatic Snowman case former police officer Harry Hole exiles him in Hong Kong. Kaja Solness, a new Norwegian Crime Squad officer, tracks down Hole and asks for his help to investigate possible serial killings in Oslo. Hole is convinced to return to Norway, especially when he got information that his father Olav is very ill.

In the winter time a killer stalks in city streets. His victims are two young women both found with twenty-four inexplicable puncture wounds and drowned in their own blood. The crime scene offer no clues, police is running out of options and the media is reaching fever pitch.

Hole has no intention to be working on the case but when third victim is found brutally murdered in a city park, Hole became interested to take an action.

Phantom (2011)

When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong – fleeing the traumas of life as a cop – he thought he was there for good. But then something really unusual happened. Oleg, the son of a Rakel – a woman he loved and lost, was arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn’t help to desert when he fled. So, Harry went back to Norway again to prove Oleg is not a killer.

Barred from rejoining police force, he sets out to a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him to the world of virulent drug ever which hits the streets of Oslo, by that he discovered connections to some highly officials of the city. He will find the wrenching true that matters to his son and for himself.

Police (2013)

There is a killer stalking in Oslo streets. Police officers are murdered on the places where they investigate crimes but didn’t solve the cases. The murders are very brutal and the media reactions are hysteric.

This murder has a very devious modus operandi, luring police, ex police involved in unsolved murders to the scene of the crime to kill them there.

Harry Hole`s dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people but instead of that, this is one of the most complex cases ever, even for him.

The Thirst (2017)

Again, another killer is scaring city of Oslo. A woman is found murdered after internet date. There were some specific marks found on her body which shows to police that they are dealing with very vicious killer.

Under pressure from the media to find the murderer, the force know there’s only one man for the job.

But Harry Hole is reluctant to return to the place that almost took everything from him. But later he discovered that there is a connection between this murder and one of his failed case in the past.

Image credits: https://www.bookdepository.com/



  1. A great review on an author I’ve never heard of before! I think I would be interested in reading some of his work, given his personal background that you detail in your review. Do you feel like the Harry Hole series needs to be read in order to be fully understood and appreciated? Or does each book sort of stand on its own? And, if the latter is the case, which book would you recommend most highly out of the 11 you describe in your review?

    • Thank you for your opinion! Yes, it is recommended that you read the Harry Hole books from the start, if you want to understand some background which connects all stories. But of course you can read some random book of a list. The most famous is a novel The Snowman, there was also a movie filmed by that book a few years ago.

  2. Hi Luka, thank you for introducing me to Jo Nesbo. I am very interested in purchasing the “police” book, sounds enthralling.  Actually I changed my mind, “The Thirst” is only $23 dollars and the most recent works of Jo Nesbo, purchased. I will come back here and update you on my critique of the novel after it has been delivered and I have read it. Being an avid book reader (book worm). I’ll read just about anything that takes my fancy. I just love reading books and purchasing new books online. It’s so much fun when I receive them for the first time in the mail. Can you tell me if Jo Nesbo will write any more books or has the author finished writing all together? Never mind I’ll just look it up on Google and work it out for myself. Thanks for having me Luka, Dave..

    • David thank you for your opinion! I didn`t read The Thirst yet, so I would appreciate if you`ll let me know about your opinion after you`ll read it 🙂
      No, the author didn`t finish with writing yet, in 2019 there should be published another Harry Hole book – The Knife.

  3. Thank you for introducing us to Jo Nesbo, the books really seem interesting, I don’t remember reading books by European authors before. I will definitely check his books out. 

    Is there a favorite one out of the collection you have that you might recommend I begin with? Perhaps Nemesis? It seems interesting. I noticed in several of them he introduces hot political topics in his books, this should be interesting as well.

    • Thank you for your opinion, I`m glad you like my blog about Jo Nesbo. Actually it is really hard to decide but by my opinion the best book is Leopard, but the most famous is The Snowman (there was also a movie based on that book).

  4. Ooo! I couldn’t have come across your post at a better time! My husband and I have read every single John Grisham, David Baldacci, and James Patterson book and we have been looking for another crime-esque series to dive in to! I think we have found it! I have never heard of Jo Nesbø before, but after reading your little explanations about each book, I can see what you mean by they pull you in! 

    Do you know if you can buy them as a set? Or Is it better to purchase them one by one? 

    Looking forward to getting right in to this series! 

    • I`m glad to her your opinion! By the way, I also read some John Grisham books and they were great!
      Actually I`m not sure but I think you can buy them only separately, try some other options is they
      are possible.
      If you`ll actually get those books I wish you will enjoy in reading, I`m sure you will 🙂

  5. Hi Luka,

    Thanks so much for sharing a good article to know about good writer to read his books.

    I love crime novels, and currently I’m watching some tv shows about some detectives from Norway, and they are so good.

    It’s also interesting to read this type of books to know more about how other countries people live and what do they do.

    I think I will add some of the book titles you share here on my Christmas wish list, me and my husband will love to read them. 


  6. Hello and thank you for this informative article Luka. It was really a nice read. I quite enjoyed. Heard about Nesbo’s book before but never got the time to actually read one of them. He is a rewarded writer and I heard about NY Times recommending his bestsellers. 

    I enjoy crime novels and movies more then anything and I am making a promise – I’m purchasing one of his books next week. That is a deal.


  7. I must say that I did not heard about this writer but I would like to read his novel. The Bat is one that intrigues me and I will surely start from that one. How much time do you think is needed to read all series of Harry Hole? I will order it before New Year, I hope that they ship outside of US.

    • I`m glad you found interesting these books. Tha Bat is the first one and it is a good choice 😉 Hard to say how much you would need for reading all these books, but if you have some free time, you can read one in timeline of one or two days. Yes no problem, the books are shipped worldwide.

  8. Wow,

    i have heard about these famous work of Jo Nesbø. and i have gotten to read three or four of his work. His first novel was Flaggermusmannen  “Bat Man”  where he went to Australia for a murder investigation

    Very interesting…Each successive volume deepens the reader’s experience with Hole and his life on the edge, and it will always keep you in suspends to read more and more…

    it’s really a cool Review from you!

    keep moving!

  9. The stories are filled with life and suspense, I have read novels written by great men like and women like John Bunyan, Chinua Achebe, Daniel Defoe, to mention just but a few but I was missing this man called Jo Nesbo, I have to admit, only from the way you introduced me to some of his work, he is undoubtedly one of the best.

    Myself being a Police office, currently attached to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, I love to read crime stories and novels. On the list above, I fall in love with “Nemesis”, how to catch a killer when you are number one suspect. It left me in suspense of knowing how Hole  will have to do to find his ex-girlfriend killer. It must be a thrilling novel 

    • Hello Ngonidzashe!
      Thank you for your comment, I`m glad you like my article. Nemesis is really good to read you`re right.
      If you will read some of these novels some day I hope you`ll enjoy it.

  10. Good day, 

    Thank you for sharing this article and informative novel series information.  Wow, what a excellent review on an author .

    I’ve never heard of before! I think It certainly an interesting series of novels to reading. This author certainly enjoy writing 

    Crime stories, right.  I certainly would like to read some of his work.   How would you say I should start reading the Harry Hole series? How can I appreciated these stories?  You mention and review 11 novels which one first? Do the novel come In eBook? Would that be a different price? Is there a favorite one for you?

    I do have a family member that would also enjoy this series, we both like mysteries and crime novel and movies. I will certainly share this website with my family member.

    Thank you for sharing this article and very best on your online business endeavors,

    Lady Esther 

    • Hey Lady Esther! Thank you for your positive comment! My suggestion is that you start reading with first published book (The Bat) cause there are some background stories which are connected through all stories. But you can read it in your way of course. I think you can get these novels also as ebooks but you need to search over web. Enjoy in reading!

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