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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

I have heard of Nesbo (don't have that o-with-a-slash character on my keyboard) for at least a couple of years but was not moved to try him out until I saw a movie adapted from his novel. (The movie is "The Headhunter" BTW.) So I randomly picked up "The Redbreast" from the library shelf.

The first two chapters are very slow-going. The translation (apparently done in UK) was terrible, clearly by someone whose native language is NOT English. The text is littered with bizarre expressions such as "hairslide" (hairpin?) and stuff. I took it up and put it down for a couple of weeks.

I gave it another try on vacation last weekend at the secluded Black Walnut Point Inn on the tip of the Chesapeake Bay and made some progress between eating crabs, crab cakes, and soft-shell crabs. Soon enough I was hooked and have been unable to put it down!

The pacing, oh, the pacing is incredibly clever. The case itself is not terribly complex and follows a thriller/adventure structure rather than a mystery structure (ie, corpse -> investigation -> solution). However, he is soooooooo good at pacing the intertwining chapters with two parallel timelines and multiple points of view of characters. There are chapters that are really exposition with no death or carnage involved, but he is able to keep up the suspense even in the actually mundane segments. Master manipulator this guy is!

Character-wise, Nesbo is clearly weaker than Mankell or Connelly, but he's not too bad and has the familiar black humor typical of Scandinavia.

The best part for me, however, is to immerse in a realistic sense of the psychological conflicts that plagues the Norwegian national conscience in terms of Nazi-ism, the fallout of WWII, and the long-term aftermath. This is something distinctive to Norway, not shared by Finland or Denmark (not sure about Sweden though), which retrospectively explained another Norwegian novel I read a few years ago. Such a nuanced, unflinching dissection of an incredibly complex collective psyche is a rare and unexpected find in a thriller/mystery novel. Just proves again that the mystery genre, if done well, provides the best medium for the grand tradition of literary realism on each particular society and its conditions, on real people and lives, on every particular place and time.


CAVA said...


Jun said...

哦对,虽然 Stig Larsson 也有讨论纳粹主义在瑞典的历史,但是毕竟不象挪威被占领,同时国内大把支持者和志愿参加德军的青年,战后纳粹支持者又被清洗。丹麦人民的反纳粹立场比较坚定,偷着救了很多犹太人,跟挪威的状况又不太一样。

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