The Bat by Jo Nesbo

Another series? Ermagod! But, I went ahead and dove in and I was not disappointed. I trusted the recommendation on the author because it came from a friend and fellow reader who has never steered me wrong yet. This time, I decided to start at Book #1 and read them in order.

The main character is Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh), a Norwegian detective who has had been through some professional and personal hard times as all the best fictional detectives seem to have in common.

He has been sent to Sydney, Australia to assist in solving the murder of a Norwegian girl who was on a tourist visa. The first thing I loved about the book was that I lived in Sydney for several years. Ironically, the murdered girl’s flat was located in Hereford Street, Glebe which was actually one street away from where I lived. So I had the vicarious thrill of knowing the neighborhood intimately.

The next vicarious thrill was that the murdered girl, who was straight, worked as a bartender at the largest gay men’s piano bar in Sydney, The Albury. Now, my friends and I started many an evening of clubbing at the Albury. I had many friends who were bartenders, drag performers, singers in the piano bar. I went to many an after-memorial night there to celebrate fallen friends. I had many gay Mardis Gras nights there and Oxford Street was somewhere I spent many wonderful times.

Alas, The Albury is gone. As the community changes, morphs and assimilates, we have lost wonderful places. But I love that it lives on in this book. Harry is housed in Kings Cross which is the red light district of Sydney. I have millions of stories about Kings Cross too – all good. The Bourbon and Beef is somewhere many late nights and early mornings have ended.

A secondary location is the rain forests in northern New South Wales. Most particularly, Nimbin, which is a hippie town trapped in time. I spent time on a commune in that area so again, wonderful memories and to have so many rolled into one book sold me on the series right there.

In a wonderful stroke of serendipity, the story itself is very, very good. The mystery is complex; the characters are very rich and some of the clues dropped on Harry are done wrapped in aboriginal Dreamtime Stories shared by several aboriginal characters that populate the novel.

I am a convert. Harry is a wonderful character and there are plenty of books out there to get into before you have to wait for the next novel in the series. I love to find an author I can get stuck into and this is one for fans of a good mystery and a traveling Norwegian detective with issues.

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