05-23-2010 12:13 PM
I had hoped Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo would be able to visit with us this month, but he is on a deadline. I'm going to go ahead and feature Jo and his books even though he won't be joining us.
Since Jo isn't here, let's add other Scandinavian mystery authors to the mix. Be sure to add any I miss! To get us started, here's some information to introduce you to JO NESBO.
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From the Publisher
It seems the city of Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case. Only he is not happy with his colleague Tom Waaler, whom he suspects of arms smuggling and murder. A previous Jo Nesbø title was voted best Norwegian crime novel of all time.
The Washington Post - Patrick Anderson
The Devil's Star is a big, ambitious, wildly readable story that pits the protagonist against a serial killer and an enemy within the Oslo police department. The novel has its flaws, but for most of the way it's compelling…a novel worth reading, for its characters, for the quality of its writing and for its wealth of detail.
A serial killer taunts Harry Hole in Nesbø's searing third crime novel to feature the Oslo police detective to be made available in the U.S. (after Nemesis). Still suffering from alcohol-fueled demons and obsessed with hunting for evidence against a clearly dirty cop, Hole grudgingly agrees to help look into the murder of a woman whose finger has been amputated and a red diamond stuck under her eyelid. More bodies follow, with the murderer leaving identical five-pointed diamonds (the titular devil's star) at each crime scene. At first the killings appear to be random, but Hole soon discovers an ominous pattern. Nesbø brilliantly incorporates threads from earlier novels, including Hole's often tumultuous relationship with his lover, Rakel, without ever losing the current story's rhythm. Even with—or perhaps because of—his flaws, Hole is arguably one of today's most fascinating fictional detectives. 5-city author tour. (Mar.)
Devastated by his inability to convince his superiors that fellow detective Tom Waaler is both guilty of his former partner Ellen's murder (The Redbreast) and an arms dealer, Harry Hole goes on a four-week bender. Dragged back to work by his loyal boss, Harry is partnered with Waaler to investigate what quickly looks like a serial killer on the loose in Oslo who leaves star-shaped red diamonds with his victims. Upset by his inability to maintain a relationship with girlfriend Rakel and her son, Harry dries out and buries himself in the case, investigating with only the help of forensic tech Beate and determined not only to identify the killer but finally to get Waaler. VERDICT Harry is one of the best lone-wolf cops for the 21st century, and Nesbø's third book is equally as good as The Redbreast and Nemesis. Scandinavian noir is alive and well, and Nesbø is one of its best authors. Highly recommended, especially for readers who like Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series (Faceless Killers) or Arnaldur Indridason's Inspector Erlendur series (Jar City).—Jessica Moyer, Univ. of Minnesota, Coll. of Education & Human Development, Minneapolis
As a serial killer terrorizes Oslo, Inspector Harry Hole (Nemesis, 2009, etc.) is battling even more fearsome demons. When copywriter Camilla Loen is shot to death, her index finger removed and a star-shaped red diamond tucked beneath her eyelid, Chief Inspector Bjarne Moller has the bright idea of pairing his heir-apparent, Inspector Tom Waaler, with barely functional alcoholic Harry, who's spent most of the previous month on unofficial leave drowning his grief over his late colleague, Officer Ellen Gjeltsen. But Harry doesn't just dislike and distrust Waaler; he's convinced that Waaler is Prince, the mob's inside man who murdered Ellen. So the salt-and-pepper rapport between Harry and Waaler is more like arsenic-and-cyanide. Even pulling Harry off the case so that he can investigate the disappearance of producer Wilhelm Barli's wife turns sour because a parcel containing her severed middle finger swiftly makes it clear that singer/actress Lisbeth Barli has become another victim of the Courier Killer. The exhaustingly wide-ranging case poses three crucial questions. What pattern underlies the Courier Killer's choice of victims and modus operandi? When the police arrest an innocent suspect, can Harry protect him long enough to get the goods on the real killer? And how can he possibly neutralize the hydra-headed Waaler, who grows more dangerous the more he's thwarted?Not all the answers are equally interesting, but even readers new to this white-hot series will be impressed by Nesbo's generous plotting and his insight into dark places in the human soul. Author tour to New York, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C.
05-23-2010 12:22 PM
Gripping and surprising, Nemesis is a nail-biting thriller from one of the biggest stars in crime fiction.
Grainy closed-circuit television footage shows a man walking into an Oslo bank and putting a gun to a cashier's head. He tells the young woman to count to twenty-five. When the robber doesn't get his money in time, the cashier is executed, and two million Norwegian kroner disappear without a trace. Police Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case.
While Hole's girlfriend is away in Russia, an old flame decides to get in touch. Former girlfriend and struggling artist Anna Bethsen invites Hole to dinner, and he can't resist a visit. But the evening ends in an all too familiar way as Hole awakens with a thundering headache, a missing cell phone, and no memory of the past twelve hours. That same morning, Anna is found shot dead in her bed. Hole begins to receive threatening e-mails. Is someone trying to frame him for this unexplained death? Meanwhile, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery.
As the death toll continues to mount, Hole becomes a prime suspect in a criminal investigation led by his longtime adversary Tom Waaler and Waaler's vigilante police force. Racing from the cool, autumnal streets of Oslo to the steaming villages of Brazil, Hole is determined to absolve himself of suspicion by uncovering all the information needed to crack both cases. But the ever-threatening Waaler is not finished with his old archenemy quite yet.
When a bank teller is shot during a holdup at the start of Norwegian bestseller Nesbø's beautifully executed heist drama, Oslo Insp. Harry Hole investigates, along with Beate Lønn, a young detective with the ability to remember every face she's ever seen. Meanwhile, Harry receives a call from Anna Bethsen, a woman he hasn't seen in years. After he meets Anna, recovering alcoholic Harry awakens the next morning with a hangover and the news that Anna is dead, apparently by her own hand. While Harry quietly looks into Anna's death, he and Beate uncover ties in their bank robbery case to one of Norway's most notorious bank robbers, who's currently in prison. The deeper Harry digs, the clearer it becomes that Anna's death is linked to the robbery. Expertly weaving plot lines from Hole's last outing to feature the inspector, The Redbreast(2007), Nesbø delivers a lush crime saga that will leave U.S. readers clamoring for the next installment. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jo Nesbø, musician, economist and author of the best-selling series featuring Detective Harry Hole, has won many prizes for his novels, including the Glass Key, the Riverton Prize and the Norwegian Bookclub prize for best ever Norwegian crime novel. His first novel to be published in English was The Devil's Star and the second, The Redbreast, was shortlisted for the CWA Duncan Lawrie International Dagger. He lives in Oslo.
05-23-2010 12:23 PM
Here's an excerpt of NEMESIS:
I’m going to die. And it makes no sense. That wasn’t the plan, not my plan, anyway. I may have been heading this way all the time without realising. It wasn’t my plan. My plan was better. My plan made sense.
I’m staring down the muzzle of a gun and I know that’s where it will come from. The messenger of death. The ferryman. Time for a last laugh. If you can see light at the end of the tunnel, it may be a spit of flame. Time for a last tear. We could have turned this life into something good, you and I. If we had followed the plan. One last thought. Everyone asks what the meaning of life is, but no one asks about the meaning of death.
The old man reminded Harry of an astronaut. The comical short steps, the stiff movements, the dead, black eyes and the shoes shuffling along the parquet floor. As if he were frightened to lose contact with the ground and float away into space.
Harry looked at the clock on the white wall above the exit. 15.16. Outside the window, in Bogstadveien, the Friday crowds hurry past. The low October sun is reflected in the wing mirror of a car driving away in the rush hour.
Harry concentrated on the old man. Hat plus elegant grey overcoat in dire need of a clean. Beneath it: tweed jacket, tie and worn grey trousers with a needle-sharp crease. Polished shoes, down at the heel. One of those pensioners of whom Majorstuen seems to be full. This wasn’t conjecture. Harry knew that August Schulz was eighty-one years old and an ex-clothes retailer who had lived all his life in Majorstuen, apart from a period he spent inAuschwitz during the War. And the stiff knees were the result of a fall from a Ringveien footbridge which he used on his daily visits to his daughter. The impression of a mechanical doll was reinforced by the fact that his arms were bent perpendicularly at the elbow and thrust forward. A brown walking stick hung over his right forearm and his left hand gripped a bank giro he was holding out for the short-haired young man at position number 2. Harry couldn’t see the face of the cashier, but he knew he was staring at the old man with a mixture of sympathy and irritation.
It was 15.17 now, and finally it was August Schulz’s turn.
Stine Grette sat at position number 1, counting out 730 Norwegian kroner for a boy in a blue woollen hat who had just given her a money order. The diamond on the ring finger of her left hand glistened as she placed each note on the counter.
Harry couldn’t see, but he knew that in front of position number 3 there was a woman with a pram, which she was rocking, probably to distract herself, as the child was asleep. The woman was waiting to be served by fru Brænne, who was loudly explaining to a man on the telephone that he couldn’t charge someone else’s account unless the account holder had signed an agreement to that effect. She also informed him that she worked in the bank, and he didn’t, so on that note perhaps they should bring the discussion to a close.
At that moment the door opened and two men, one tall, the other short, wearing the same overalls, strode into the bank. Stine Grette looked up. Harry checked his watch and began to count. The men ran over to the corner where Stine was sitting. The tall man moved as if he were stepping over puddles, while the little one had the rolling gait of someone who has acquired more muscle than he can accommodate. The boy in the blue hat turned slowly and began to walk towards the exit, so preoccupied with counting money that he didn’t see the two men.
‘Hello,’ the tall man said to Stine, banging down a black case on the counter. The little one pushed his reflector sunglasses in place, walked forward and deposited an identical case beside it. ‘Money!’ he said in a high-pitched squeak. ‘Open the door!’
It was like pressing the pause button: all movement in the bank froze. The only indication that time hadn’t stood still was the traffic outside the window. And the second hand on the clock, which now showed that ten seconds had passed. Stine pressed a button under her desk. There was a hum of electronics, and the little man pressed the counter door against the wall with his knee.
‘Who’s got the key?’ he asked. ‘Quick, we haven’t got all day!’
‘Helge!’ Stine shouted over her shoulder.
‘What?’ The voice came from inside the open door of the only office in the bank.
‘We’ve got visitors, Helge!’
A man with a bow tie and reading glasses appeared.
‘These gentlemen want you to open the ATM, Helge,’ Stine said.
Helge Klementsen stared vacantly at the two men dressed in overalls, who were now on his side of the counter. The tall one glanced nervously at the front door while the little one had his eyes fixed on the branch manager.
‘Oh, right. Of course,’ Helge gasped, as if he had just remembered a missed appointment, and burst into a peal of frenetic laughter.
Harry didn’t move a muscle; he simply let his eyes absorb every detail of their movements and gestures. Twenty-five seconds. He continued to look at the clock above the door, but from the corner of his eye he could see the branch manager unlocking the ATM from the inside, taking out two oblong metal dispensers and handing them over to the two men. The whole thing took place at high speed and in silence. Fifty seconds.
‘These are for you, pop!’ The little man had taken two similar metal dispensers from his case and held them out for Helge. The branch manager swallowed, nodded, took them and slotted them into the ATM.
‘Have a good weekend!’ the little one said, straightening his back and grabbing the case. One and a half minutes.
‘Not so fast,’ Helge said.
The little one stiffened.
Harry sucked in his cheeks and tried to concentrate.
‘The receipt . . .’ Helge said.
For one protracted moment the two men stared at the small, grey-haired branch manager. Then the little one began to laugh. Loud, reedy laughter with a piercing, hysterical overtone, the way people on speed laugh. ‘You don’t think we were going to leave here without a signature, do you? Hand over two million without a receipt!’
‘Well,’ Helge said. ‘One of you almost forgot last week.’
‘There are so many new bods on deliveries at the moment,’ the little one said, as he and Helge signed and exchanged yellow and pink forms.
Harry waited for the front door to close again before looking at the clock once more. Two minutes and ten seconds.
Through the glass in the door he could see the white Nordea security van drive away.
Conversations between the people in the bank resumed. Harry didn’t need to count, but he still did. Seven. Three behind the counter and four in front, including the baby and the man in overalls who had just come in and was standing by the table in the middle of the room, writing his account number on a payment slip. Harry knew it was for Sunshine Tours.
‘Good afternoon,’ August Schulz said and began to shuffle in the direction of the front door.
The time was exactly 15.21.10, and that was the moment the whole thing started.
When the door opened, Harry saw Stine Grette’s head bob up from her papers and drop down. Then she raised her head again, slowly this time. Harry’s attention moved to the front door. The man who had come in had already pulled down the zip of his boiler suit and whipped out a black-and-olive-green AG3. A navy blue balaclava completely covered his face, apart from his eyes. Harry started to count from zero.
The balaclava began to move where the mouth would have been, like a Bigfoot doll: ‘This is a hold-up. Nobody move!’
He hadn’t raised his voice, but in the small, compact bank building it was as if a cannon had gone off. Harry studied Stine. Above the distant drone of traffic he could hear the smooth click of greased metal as the man cocked the gun. Her left shoulder sank, almost imperceptibly.
Brave girl, Harry thought. Or maybe just frightened out of her wits. Aune, the psychology lecturer at Oslo Police College, had told them that when people are frightened enough they stop thinking and act the way they have been programmed. Most bank employees press the silent robbery alarm almost in shock, Aune maintained, citing post-robbery debriefings where many could not remember whether they had activated the alarm or not. They had been on autopilot. In just the same way as a bank robber has programmed himself to shoot anyone trying to stop him, Aune said. The more frightened the bank robber is, the less chance anyone has of making him change his mind. Harry was rigid as he tried to fix on the bank robber’s eyes. Blue.
The robber unhitched a black holdall and threw it over the counter. The man in black took six paces to the counter door, perched on the top edge and swung his legs over to stand directly behind Stine, who was sitting still with a vacant expression. Good, Harry thought. She knows her instructions; she is not provoking a reaction by staring at the robber.
The man pointed the barrel of the gun at Stine’s neck, leaned forward and whispered in her ear.
She hadn’t panicked yet, but Harry could see Stine’s chest heaving; her fragile frame seemed to be struggling for air under the now very taut white blouse. Fifteen seconds.
She cleared her throat. Once. Twice. Finally her vocal cords came to life:
‘Helge. Keys for the ATM.’ The voice was low and hoarse, com pletely unrecognisable from the one which had articulated almost the same words three minutes earlier.
Harry couldn’t see him, but he knew that Helge had heard what the robber had said and was already standing in the office doorway.
‘Quick, or else . . .’ Her voice was hardly audible and in the following pause all that could be heard in the bank were the soles of August Schulz’s shoes on the parquet flooring, like a couple of brushes swishing against the drum skin in an immeasurably slow shuffle.
‘. . . he’ll shoot me.’
Harry looked out of the window. There was often a car outside, engine running, but he couldn’t see one. Only a blur of passing cars and people.
‘Helge . . .’ Her voice was imploring.
Come on, Helge, Harry urged. He knew quite a bit about the ageing bank manager, too. Harry knew that he had two standard poodles, a wife and a recently jilted pregnant daughter waiting for him at home. They had packed and were ready to drive to their mountain chalet as soon as Helge returned. At precisely this moment Helge felt he was submerged in water, in the kind of dream where all your movements slow down however much you try to hurry. Then he came into Harry’s field of vision. The bank robber had swung Stine’s chair round so that he was behind her, but now faced Helge. Like a frightened child who has to feed a horse, Helge stood back and held out the bunch of keys, his arm stretched to the limit. The masked man whispered in Stine’s ear as he turned the machine gun on Helge, who took two unsteady steps backwards.
Stine cleared her throat: ‘He says open the ATM and put the money in the black holdall.’
In a daze, Helge stared at the gun pointing at him.
‘You’ve got twenty-five seconds before he shoots. Not you. Me.’
Helge’s mouth opened and closed as though he wanted to say something.
‘Now, Helge,’ Stine said.
Thirty seconds had passed since the hold-up began. August Schulz had almost reached the front door. The branch manager fell to his knees in front of the ATM and contemplated the bunch of keys. There were four of them.
‘Twenty seconds left,’ Stine’s voice rang out.
Majorstuen police station, Harry thought. The patrol cars are on their way. Eight blocks away. Friday rush hour.
With trembling fingers, Helge took one key and inserted it in the lock. It got stuck halfway. He pressed harder.
‘But . . .’ he began.
Helge pulled out the key and tried one of the others. It went in, but wouldn’t turn.
‘My God . . .’
‘Thirteen. Use the one with the bit of green tape, Helge.’
Klementsen stared at the bunch of keys as though seeing them for the first time.
The third key went in. And round. He pulled open the door and turned towards Stine and the man.
‘There is one more lock to open . . .’
‘Nine!’ Stine yelled.
Helge sobbed as he ran his fingers across the jagged edges of the keys, no longer able to see, using the edges as Braille to tell him which key was the right one.
Harry listened carefully. No police sirens yet. August Schulz grasped the handle of the front door.
There was a metallic clunk as the bunch of keys hit the floor.
‘Five,’ Stine whispered.
The door opened and the sounds from the street flooded into the bank. Harry thought he could hear the familiar dying lament in the distance. It rose again. Police sirens. Then the door closed.
Harry closed his eyes and counted to two.
‘There we are!’ It was Helge shouting. He had opened the second lock and now he was half-standing, pulling at the jammed dispensers. ‘Let me just get the money out! I–’
He was interrupted by a piercing shriek. Harry peered towards the other end of the bank where a woman stood staring in horror at the motionless bank robber pressing the gun into Stine’s neck. She blinked twice and mutely nodded her head in the direction of the pram as the child’s scream rose in pitch.
Helge almost fell backwards as the first dispenser came free. He pulled over the black holdall. Within six seconds all the money was in. Klementsen zipped up the holdall as instructed and stood by the counter. Everything had been communicated via Stine; her voice sounded surprisingly steady and calm now.
05-23-2010 12:24 PM
The Barnes & Noble Review
Harry Hole, newly promoted inspector for the Oslo-based national Security Service, is a surly, wounded sort, an emotional wreck. Introduced in Norwegian author Jo Nesbø's first novel, The Devil's Star, Hole lives alone, drinks too much, and is congenitally unable to relate to his fellow officers, save for his dependable partner, Ellen Gjelten. But Hole is good at doggedly and bravely solving crimes, and here he confronts a half dozen separate murders and felonies that initially seem unrelated. Of course, in prime Ross McDonald fashion, all interlock after a lot of globe-hopping footwork. Events both ultra-contemporary and lost in the mists of World War II usher in the headline-ready themes of the novel, in the manner of recent revelations concerning, say, Günter Grass's service in the Waffen SS. Nesbø's prose -- in a taut translation by Don Bartlett -- is delivered in compact, cohesive chapters that tantalize the reader without giving the game away. Redbreast defies categories like noir or police procedural, with more leisurely pacing and character unfolding than is common in domestic U.S. productions. And yet, this whole mode owes its very existence to American pioneers, and Nesbø's transnational stylings pay homage to this lineage, in everything from the faintly ribald name of his protagonist to an exegesis delivered by one character on the roots of Norway's America-philia. And could it be possible that the name of Harry Hole's boss, Bjarne Møller, is meant to echo -- Barney Miller? --Paul Di Filippo
"A FINE NOVEL, AMBITIOUS IN CONCEPT, SKILLFUL IN EXECUTION, AND GROWN-UP IN ITS VIEW OF PEOPLE AND EVENTS....RANKS WITH THE BEST OF CURRENT AMERICAN CRIME FICTION." —WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past—when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away, and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one. Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole—and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.
"THE PACING IS SWIFT. THE PLOT IS PRECISE AND INTRICATE. THE CHARACTERS ARE INTRIGUIING....SURPRISINGLY WITTY AT TIMES AND OFTEN GRIM. BUT IT'S ALWAYS SMART." —USA TODAY
The Washington Post - Patrick Anderson
…this is a fine novel, ambitious in concept, skillful in execution and grown-up in its view of people and events. In important ways it's also a political novel, one concerned with the threat of fascism, in Norway and by implication everywhere. All in all, The Redbreast certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.
Jo Nesbø, musician, economist and author, has won many prizes for his novels, including the Norwegian Book Club prize for best ever-Norwegian crime novel. His first novel to be published in English was The Devil’s Star, which sold more than 100,000 copies in Norway alone. He lives in Oslo.
05-23-2010 12:25 PM
By Jo Nesbo HarperCollins Copyright © 2007 Jo Nesbo
All right reserved.
Toll Barrier at Alnabru. 1 November 1999.
A grey bird glided in and out of Harry's field of vision. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Slow time. Somebody had been talking about 'slow time' on TV yesterday. This was slow time. Like on Christmas Eve before Father Christmas came. Or sitting in the electric chair before the current was turned on.
He drummed harder.
They were parked in the open area behind the ticket booths at the toll gate. Ellen turned up the radio a notch. The commentator spoke with reverence and solemnity.
'The plane landed fifty minutes ago, and at exactly 6.38 a.m. the President set foot on Norwegian soil. He was welcomed by the Mayor of Ullensaker. It is a wonderful autumn day here in Oslo: a splendid Norwegian backdrop to this summit meeting. Let us hear again what the President said at the press conference half an hour ago.'
It was the third time. Again Harry saw the screaming press corps thronging against the barrier. The men in grey suits on the other side, who made only a half-hearted attempt not to look like Secret Service agents, hunched their shoulders and then relaxed them as they scanned the crowd, checked for the twelfth time that their earpieces were correctly positioned, scanned the crowd, dwelled for a few seconds on a photographer whose telephoto lens was a little too long, continued scanning, checked for the thirteenth time that their earpieces were in position. Someone welcomed the President in English, everything went quiet. Then a scratching noise in a microphone.
'First, let me say I'm delighted to be here ...' the President said for the fourth time in husky, broad American-English.
'I read that a well-known American psychologist thinks the President has an MPD,' Ellen said.
'Multiple Personality Disorder. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The psychologist thought his normal personality was not aware that the other one, the sex beast, was having relations with all these women. And that was why a Court of Impeachment couldn't accuse him of having lied under oath about it.'
'Jesus,' Harry said, looking up at the helicopter hovering high above them.
On the radio, someone speaking with a Norwegian accent asked, 'Mr President, this is the fourth visit to Norway by a sitting US President. How does it feel?'
'It's really nice to be back here. And I see it as even more important that the leaders of the state of Israel and of the Palestinian people can meet here. The key to -'
'Can you remember anything from your previous visit to Norway, Mr President?'
'Yes, of course. In today's talks I hope that we can -'
'What significance have Oslo and Norway had for world peace, Mr President?'
'Norway has played an important role.'
A voice without a Norwegian accent: 'What concrete results does the President consider to be realistic?'
The recording was cut and someone from the studio took over.
'We heard there the President saying that Norway has had a crucial role in ... er, the Middle Eastern peace process. Right now the President is on his way to -'
Harry groaned and switched off the radio. 'What is it with this country, Ellen?'
She shrugged her shoulders.
'Passed Post 27,' the walkie-talkie on the dashboard crackled.
He looked at her.
'Everyone ready at their posts?' he asked. She nodded.
'Here we go,' he said. She rolled her eyes. It was the fifth time he had said that since the procession set off from Gardemoen Airport. From where they were parked they could see the empty motorway stretch out from the toll barrier up towards Trosterud and Furuset. The blue light on the roof rotated sluggishly. Harry rolled down the car window to stick out his hand and remove a withered yellow leaf caught under the windscreen wiper.
'A robin redbreast,' Ellen said, pointing. 'Rare to see one so late in autumn.'
'There. On the roof of the toll booth.'
Harry lowered his head and peered through the windscreen.
'Oh yes. So that's a robin redbreast?'
'Yep. But you probably can't tell the difference between that and a redwing, I imagine?'
'Right.' Harry shaded his eyes. Was he becoming short-sighted?
'It's a rare bird, the redbreast,' Ellen said, screwing the top back on the thermos.
'Is that a fact?' Harry said.
'Ninety per cent of them migrate south. A few take the risk, as it were, and stay here.'
'As it were? '
Another crackle on the radio: 'Post 62 to HQ. There's an unmarked car parked by the road two hundred metres before the turn-off for Lørenskog.'
A deep voice with a Bergen accent answered from HQ:'One moment, 62. We'll look into it.'
'Did you check the toilets?' Harry asked, nodding towards the Esso station.
'Yes, the petrol station has been cleared of all customers and employees. Everyone except the boss. We've locked him in his office.'
'Toll booths as well?'
'Done. Relax, Harry, all the checks have been done. Yes, the ones that stay do so in the hope that it will be a mild winter, right? That may be OK, but if they're wrong, they die. So why not head south, just in case, you might be wondering. Are they just lazy, the birds that stay?'
Harry looked in the mirror and saw the guards on either side of the railway bridge. Dressed in black with helmets and MP5 machine guns hanging around their necks. Even from where he was he could see the tension in their body language.
'The point is that if it's a mild winter, they can choose the best nesting places before the others return,' Ellen said, while trying to stuff the thermos into the already full glove compartment. 'It's a calculated risk, you see. You're either laughing all over your face or you're in deep, deep **bleep**. Whether to take the risk or not. If you take the gamble, you may fall off the twig frozen stiff one night and not thaw out till spring. Bottle it and you might not have anywhere to nest when you return. These are, as it were, the eternal dilemmas you're confronted with ...
Excerpted from The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo Copyright © 2007 by Jo Nesbo . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
05-23-2010 12:27 PM
Nilly is new to the neighborhood, but he is quick to make friends: Doctor Proctor, an eccentric professor; and Lisa, who is teased by the twin terrors Truls and Trym. Nilly and Lisa help Doctor Proctor develop his latest invention, a powder that makes you fart. The powder makes Nilly and Lisa very popular at school when they sell it for fifty cents a bag. And they get revenge on Truls and Trym by giving them a dose of extra-strength fart powder that shoots them up into a tree.
All is good farty fun. Until someone steals the industrial-strength fart powder — which was supposed to make Doctor Proctor famous — to use for evil purposes....
Provocative title aside, Norwegian author Nesbø's children's book debut is a sweet, silly, and often amusing tale. A very small boy named Nilly moves to Oslo, Norway, where he quickly meets the titular mad scientist, who has accidentally invented two fart powders. One provides classic flatulence (albeit without the odor), while the other leads to flatulence so strong that it can propel children hundreds of feet into the air. As Nilly and his new friend Lisa help market the invention, they find themselves at the mercy of twin bullies Truls and Trym and their corrupt father. The over-the-top story eventually ties in the toughest prison in Norway and a vicious sewer anaconda, but Nesbø writes with an appropriately silly tone to justify these twists. The goofiness does eventually wear thin, but Nilly's oversize tall tales, Lisa's common sense, and Proctor's insane inventions should charm younger readers, even those who might be disappointed that the book isn't quite as gross as the title implies. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Dec.)
05-23-2010 12:28 PM
Here's an excerpt:
The First Powder Test
"I'm Doctor Proctor," the professor said at last. His accent was guttural, making his voice sound like a badly oiled lawnmower. "I'm a crazy professor. Well, almost, anyway." He laughed a hearty, snorting sort of laugh and started watering his unmowed lawn with a green watering can.
Nilly, who was never one to say no to an interesting conversation, set down his trumpet, ran down his front steps and over to the fence, and asked, "And just what makes you so sure that you're almost crazy, Mr. Proctor?"
"Doctor Proctor. Did you ever hear of a professor trying to invent a powder to prevent hay fever but ending up inventing a farting powder instead? No, I didn't think so. Quite a failure...and pretty outrageous, isn't it?"
"Well, it depends," Nilly said, hopping up to sit on the fence. "What does your farting powder do? Does it keep people from farting?"
The professor laughed even louder. "Ah, if only it did. I could probably have found someone to buy my powder, then," he said. Suddenly he stopped watering the grass and stroked his chin, lost in thought. "You're on to something there, Nilly. If I'd made the powder so it kept people from farting, then people could take it before going to parties or funerals. After all, there are lots of occasions when farting is inappropriate. I hadn't thought of that." He dropped the watering can in the grass and hurried off toward his little blue house. "Interesting," he mumbled. "Maybe I can just reverse the formula and create a non-fart powder."
"Wait!" Nilly yelled. "Wait, Doctor Proctor."
Nilly jumped down from the fence, tumbling into the tall grass, and when he got up again, he couldn't see the professor -- just his blue house and a side staircase that led down to an open cellar door. Nilly ran to the door as fast as his short legs could carry him. It was dark inside, but he could hear clattering and banging. Nilly knocked hard on the door frame.
"Come in!" the professor yelled from inside.
Nilly walked into the dimly lit cellar. He could vaguely make out an old, dismantled motorcycle with a sidecar by one wall. And a shelf with various Mickey Mouse figurines and a mason jar full of a light green powder, with a label in big letters that read dr. proctor's light green powder! And underneath, in slightly smaller letters: "A bright idea that may make the world a little more fun."
"Is this the fart powder?" Nilly asked.
"No, it's just a phosphorescent powder that makes you glow," said Doctor Proctor from somewhere in the darkness. "A rather unsuccessful invention."
Then the professor emerged from the darkness with a lit flashlight in one hand and a snorkel mask in the other. "Wear this for safety during the experiment. I've reversed the process so that everything goes backward. Shut the door and watch out. Everything is connected to the light switch."
Nilly put on the face mask and pulled the door shut.
"Thanks," the professor said, flipping the light switch. The light came on, and a bunch of iron pipes that ran back and forth between a bunch of barrels, tanks, tubing, funnels, test tubes, and glass containers started trembling and groaning and rumbling and sputtering.
"Remember to duck if you hear a bang!" Doctor Proctor shouted over the noise. The glass containers had started simmering and boiling and smoking.
"Okay!" Nilly yelled, and right then there was a bang.
The bang was so loud that Nilly felt like earwax was being pressed into his head while at the same time his eyes were being pressed out. The light went off and it was pitch-black. And totally silent. Nilly found the flashlight on the floor and shone it on the professor, who was lying on his stomach with his hands over his head. Nilly tried to say something, but when he couldn't hear his own voice, he realized he had gone deaf. He stuck his right index finger into his left ear and twisted it around. Then he tried talking again. Now he could just barely hear something far away, as if there were a layer of elephant snail slime covering his eardrum.
"That was the loudest thing I've ever heard!" he screamed.
"Eureka!" Doctor Proctor yelled, leaping up, brushing off his coat, and pulling off the glasses that Nilly now realized weren't swim goggles but motorcycle goggles. The professor's whole face was coated in blackish gray powder except for two white rings where his goggles had been. Then he dashed over to one of the test tubes and poured the contents into a glass container with a strainer on top.
"Look!" Doctor Proctor exclaimed.
Nilly saw that there was a fine, light blue powder left in the strainer. The professor stuck a teaspoon into the powder and then into his mouth. "Mmm," he said. "No change in the flavor." Then he gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. Nilly could see the professor's face slowly turning red underneath the black soot.
"What are you doing?" Nilly asked.
"I'm trying to fart," the professor hissed through his clenched teeth. "And it's not working. Isn't it great?"
He smiled as he tried one more time. But as we all know, it's very hard to smile and fart at the same time, so Doctor Proctor gave up.
"Finally I've invented something that can be used for something," he said, smiling. "An anti-fart powder."
"Can I try?" Nilly asked, nodding toward the strainer.
"You?" the professor asked, looking at Nilly. The professor raised one bushy eyebrow and lowered the other bushy eyebrow so that Nilly could tell he didn't like the idea.
"I've tested anti-fart powder before," Nilly quickly added.
"Oh really?" the professor asked. "Where?"
"In Prague," Nilly said.
"Really? How did it go?" the professor asked.
"Fine," Nilly replied, "but I farted."
"Good," the professor said.
"What's good?" Nilly asked.
"That you farted. That means there isn't anything that prevents farting yet." He passed the spoon to Nilly. "Go ahead. Take it."
Nilly filled the spoon and swallowed a mouthful.
"Well?" the professor asked.
"Just a minute," Nilly mumbled with his mouth full of powder. "It sure is dry."
"Try this," the professor said, holding out a bottle.
Nilly put the bottle to his lips and washed the powder down.
"Whoa, that's good," Nilly said, looking in vain for a label on the bottle. "What is this?"
"Doctor Proctor's pear soda," the professor said. "Mostly water and sugar with a little dash of wormwood, elephant snail slime, and carbonation.... Is something wrong?"
The professor looked worriedly at Nilly, who had suddenly started coughing violently.
"No, no," said Nilly, his eyes tearing up. "It's just that I didn't think elephant snails really existed..."
Nilly looked up, frightened. The bang wasn't as loud as the first one that made him deaf for a minute, but this time Nilly had felt a strong tug on the seat of his pants and the cellar door had blown open.
"Oh no!" Doctor Proctor said, hiding his face in his hands.
"What was that?" Nilly asked.
"You farrrrrrted!" the professor yelled.
"That was a fart?" Nilly whispered. "If it was, that's the loudest fart I've ever heard."
"It must be the pear soda," the professor said. "I should have known the mixture could be explosive."
Nilly started filling the spoon with more powder, but Doctor Proctor stopped him.
"I'm sorry, this isn't appropriate for children," he said.
"Sure it is," Nilly said. "All kids like to fart."
"That's absurd," Doctor Proctor said. "Farts smell bad."
"But these farts don't smell," Nilly said.
The professor sniffed loudly. "Mmm," he said. "Interesting, they don't smell."
"Do you know what this invention could be used for?" Nilly asked.
"No," Doctor Proctor said, which was the truth. "Do you?"
"Yes," Nilly said triumphantly. He crossed his arms and looked up at Doctor Proctor. "I do."
And that was the beginning of what would become Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder.
But now Nilly's mother was standing on the steps, yelling that he had to hurry because this was his first day at his new school.
Translation copyright © 2010 by Tara Chace
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