The Drinking Detective

FD recently read a mystery novel by Jo Nesbo, a highly acclaimed Norwegian writer.  FD read number four in the series, The Devil’s Star (capsule summaries of all of Nesbo’s mystery novels are available here). Perhaps FD should have started with the first in the series.  Read in order, perhaps one would develop more sympathy for the character.  The mystery was, as serial killer mysteries go, well-done, and there’s an appealing subsidiary character, one Beate Lonn, who is another in the growing field of crime scene investigators and could probably carry a novel by herself.

However, FD was ultimately unsatisfied.  The protagonist, Harry Hole, is presented as a seriously alcoholic person (yes, who makes a successful attempt to stop drinking during the span of the novel).  And yet, he is seemingly un-touched by his drinking — every brain cell working better than the brain cells of those around him, great physical condition enables him to take on significant challenges and his appeal to women totally intact, etc, etc.

FD has always felt that most mystery novels are too “easy” on the reader  and this seems another case in point.  Perhaps that’s explains the greater appeal of Henning Mankell’s Wallender series.  Wallendar is, in contrast to many other detectives, really affected by the bad choices he makes, by the difficult life situations in which he finds himself.  FD isn’t really looking forward to reading the last in he Wallender series, but does feel that more mystery writers would do well to follow Mankell’s example of realism even in what is ultimately completely escapist fiction.

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