As a devout fan of the well-constructed murder mystery, I found Nemesis by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo quite intriguing. Of course, the hero is yet another alcoholic police detective who is as dogged in his pursuit of criminals as he is vulnerable in both his personal and professional lives. But this is a very convoluted murder mystery, with multiple plot twists, parallel stories, a huge cast of colorful characters, and a seemingly endless number of possible bad guys.
Detective Harry Hole is in what appears to be his first ever healthy relationship with a mature and loving woman and mother, but she is out of the country fighting a child custody battle with her ex during the course of the story. Hole succumbs to the lure of an old and highly unstable flame and spends an evening with her, only to end up in his own apartment building in the middle of the night, apparently stinking drunk and not remembering a thing. The next day, the old flame is found with a bullet in her head and Hole must cover up his involvement with the victim while pursuing her murderer.
At the same time, he is assigned to investigate a heist in which a cold-blooded bank robber murders the cashier-hostage when her boss is six seconds too slow in emptying the till. The investigation leads in multiple directions: to prison, where robber-king Raskol, a clever gypsy with a reputation for having criminal networks throughout Europe, has turned himself in to serve time; to a small town in Brazil which serves as a haven for international criminals and where the killer from the bank heist may be hiding out; and back to Hole’s own personal investigation, as Raskol turns out to be the uncle of Hole’s murdered lady friend. Chaos ensues as the two mysteries intertwine, each suspect Hole pursues ends up dead, and he starts to get creepy emails from someone who knows about his involvement with the dead woman.
Finally, complicating the story even further—if possible—is the tragedy of the unsolved murder of Hole’s former partner Ellen, which weighs heavily on Hole’s conscience and which he is determined to solve. We are shown in the course of Nemesis who in fact was behind Ellen’s murder, and watch with horror as this same individual targets an unsuspecting Hole while stalking his new partner Beate.
I pride myself on often solving mysteries before the author does, but must admit to being totally and repeatedly lost in the maze of Nesbo’s multiple and thickening plots. The end is clever and surprising, but by then I was so confused by who was doing what to whom, and why, that I think I was more relieved to get to the end of the novel than I was satisfied by a mystery well and truly resolved. Nesbo’s books are reportedly all the rage in Europe right now, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up another Hole mystery any time soon—at least, not until my head stops aching from this one.