Friday, 26 March 2010

Falling in love with a detective

Have you ever fallen in love with a literary creation? Had a character who suddenly came to life in your mind, and you find yourself thinking about them long after you've finished the book?

I don't mean that I hold conversations with the character! I mean, more like, this character has come alive for me. He has come out of the story, and I see him in my mind's eye, and I want to know more about him. Has that ever happened to you?

He's Harry Hole, the detective featured in Jo Nesbo's Norwegian detective series beginning with The Redbreast, and continuing through Nemesis, The Devil's Star, and The Redeemer. The latest one, The Snowman, has just been released here in Canada.

First of all I must give a lovely thank you to Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise. It was her review she gave of The Redeemer that brought Jo Nesbo to my attention. She gives reviews for all four books, which is when I realized I was really interested in this series. Yes, it took me six months to find The Redbreast! And oh, I am so glad I did. Because Harry Hole is a detective that over the course of the first book, I found myself falling ever so slowly in love with. In the back of my mind I saw him as I saw John Rebus of the Ian Rankin mysteries, middle-aged, about to retire, trying to ignore authority and drinking when not on the job. I deeply admire John Rebus and secretly hope many of our police forces have detectives like him. Harry, though, Harry is in his mid-thirties. Blonde. And a drunk. He's also got very good instincts and like the best detective characters in fiction, is willing to go against his bosses to follow what only he thinks is a trail.

I know it's shallow of me, but when I saw that description of him as tall and blonde, I swear my heart went thump! and then a most terrible crime is committed in the middle of the book, that left me crying out, actually crying so hard that I had to put the book down. I can't tell you more as it's a key plot point for the series, but it broke my heart. And when I picked the book up again and saw that it broke Harry's heart too, that is when I fell completely in love with him. Yes, I love Harry Hole. And so, even though I am in the midst of the Once Upon a Time Challenge, I have bought The Devil's Star already and am panicking because I can't find Nemesis and I must return to Harry and his story quickly!

I know, I didn't think that as I approached middle age, I could still fall for a pair of blue eyes and a slightly morose character, but apparently I will never be immune to this habit. I hope it never fades! Long live my love affair with books!

Hmm, I can see the more serious mystery readers among you wondering when I'll get to the mystery: Yes, my dear Gentle Readers, The Redbreast rated 4/5 for me. I found the plot a little confusing, and sorting who the killer is and names of the characters had me flipping back to check different sections. It's not the writing, nor the translation. It's because the mystery itself is based on something that happened during WW2, that we also witness, that is having repercussions now, and Harry has to sort through other people's memories and stories to find the truth. It's a very good mystery, that is resolved very satisfyingly. It has a most chilling killer, a most awful betrayal, and the prettiest love interest in a while.......I really enjoyed the premise of this story, and the various characters, especially Harry's budding romance (and no, I don't hate her! I'm happy he's happy!). I love the set-up at his police station, the various officers he has to contend with, and I really enjoyed the history of WW 2 from a Norwegian perspective, which I have only a very rudimentary knowledge of. Most of all, this mystery is about people, and what they will do to survive in the most extreme of situations. What makes people go on?

At Detectives Beyond Borders book blog, Peter Rozovsky has a two part interview with Jo Nesbo about Harry and the books so far; Part one and Part two. It was here that I learned that it's Harry""Heuleh" not 'Hole' pronounciation, and that Harry is a mock term for country bumpkin. And lots of other things, including that Norway thinks of itself somewhat in the same terms with its neighbor Sweden as we do here in Canada with the US. By the way, the translation by Don Bartlett is so good that I forgot I was reading a translated book. It read like it had been written in English. It is excellent.

Just so you know how much I like *have a book crush* on Harry Hole, I much prefer him and this book to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I reviewed here last year. Hmm, I see even though I gave it 5/5 it didn't make it on my books of the year list!! How can I prefer a book I give 4/5 to one that's 5/5? Easy. The further I am away from The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, the more I am aware that it's a story written at a very fast pace, that allows us to miss certain plot holes that now that I'm farther away, I have more difficulties with. I can also barely remember Mikael the hero, whereas Harry - well, we all know about Harry now! I think the difference is that if I don't read the sequel to Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, I wouldn't be dreadfully upset - I want to read it, but it's not important that I do. Whereas it's really important for me to keep reading the Harry Hole series. I must know what happens next, and to him.

So my dear Gentle Readers, have you ever fallen in love with a character? who makes you read every book featuring them?


DesLily said...

since I am a character driven reader I guess you'd say that about every "series" I read!
I've fallen in love many times this way! Masterharper Robinton of Pern I love love love and loved he was used in so many of the Pern books!
Belgarath the Sorcerer and Gandalf need no introduction and I was thrilled no end when David Eddings let loose with a whole book on Belgarath alone!... sure wish Tolkien had done the same with Gandalf!
So you see.. these are just a few samples..I wish sooooooo much that these characters were alive and well and living in my neighborhood LOL

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, I've done the falling in love with the character thing. And you've made me curious about this author and Harry. Got to find the first book in the series and try it. Thanks for sharing, Susan!

Nela San said...

Hi Susan, is Nela San writing from Italy. Do you believe in coincidences? Just yesterday night (very late) was writing in my blog about the"inspectors" I'd fallen in love with.
Of course it happens and I'm not ashamed of it, on the contrary, if the autor doesn't write ahead on same mystery range I feel very sad. To me this happened at leat three times.
Would be glad if you read post in my blog on it, and, should you find interesting to join it would be very nice too.
It's in Italian but hopefully google translator I put on, will do its right job...

Nymeth said...

I have! The last were Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, as I was telling you the other day. I just HAD to devour all books featuring them as quickly as possible. And then the two short stories. And then I almost cried because there were no more :P I'm also a little bit in love with Hilary McKay's Casson family...there's a whole series of books about them. They're children's books, but I know I don't need to tell *you* that this doesn't mean they aren't complex and serious and all that. But above all, they're just characters I want to spend time with. Like you said about Harry, I NEED to know what will happen to them next.

Sam Sattler said...

I won't go so far as to use the word "love" about my favorite fictional detectives but I certainly do have a handful of them that I consider to be good friends. :-)

Susan said...

Deslily: Lol! I feel normal whenever I talk to you! I like that you wish your neighborhood were full of these characters, I sometimes wished that too. I would have loved to live in Hobbitown (sp)! Had Sam do my gardening lol. It's fun when a character is so richly written, isn't it, that we feel we know them?

Kay: I hope you enjoy Harry too! I don't suppose you've read Jane Austen and have a Darcy thing going too, as I do, have you? lol

Nela San: I will come to your blog and see if I can get Google translator to work. I'm not technologically gifted, but i will try my bet! thanks so much for coming by and yes, I am fascinated and interested that you were writing the same thing at the same time I was! I want to come see who you have been captured by. Thanks for leaving your comments!

Nymeth: Aha! I thought you might be having a little affair with them! I am just so thrilled that you are enjoying a mystery series! It's been a while since I cried because as series ended, but I have done that too. Isn't that magical, when an author has created such a rich world and breathing characters that we want to be there too? Can't you just see yourself spending time with Harriet and Peter, talking comfortably? That's how I feel about Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliott. I'm glad you understand the reason for my new love, Harry Hole!

Sam: I like that! good friends, indeed. There are so many detective heroes, police inspectors and private eyes I'd like to call friends too, starting with Kinsey Milhone and VI Warshawski....Anna Lee, Mercy Thompson, Adam Dalgliesh, Sharon McCone (she eats chocolate!) many. Lovely thought, that we could be good friends with our book heroes, isn't it? Thanks so much for saying that.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the link. Any comment string about a Norwegian crime writer that also invokes Jane Austen is worth reading.

I commented once that Harry Hole's lack of self-pity made him likeable.

And don't worry about pronouncing the character's name or the author's. Nesbo himself pronounces both in the English fashion when addressing an English-speaking audience -- as did Don Bartlett when I heard him speak on a panel last year.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Gavin said...

Oh yes, Harry is one and Rebus is another. I also find Arnaldur Indridason's Inspector Erlandur intriguing:)

Anonymous said...
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Eva said...

Oh! This sounds marvelous. :D (I feel like I leave this comment on every mystery review you publish.)

I totally fall in love with characters. Although it's more often for me to want to *become* a girl character than fall in love with a boy one. lol

Susan said...

Peter: You are more than welcome! Your blog is fascinating, so I hope many more mystery readers find their way there. They were really good interviews with Jo, also, and I like the rock question you make all the interviewees answer! lol Yes, I like his lack of self-pity too, that's a good comment about his character also.

Gavin: oh yes Erlendur! sometimes I get so mad at him, in his horrible dingy apartment and boiled or microwaved food, and then I think, but this is the lot of the unmarried policeman, who gives his life every day. And I like his moroseness, I understand his obsession with lost people, and I love him a little more again.

Eva: I'm going to get you and Nymeth reading more mysteries! lol they are an art form, and I think a great way of commenting on our society today.

I so do the same thing with girl characters, I want to be them too! I fell in love with Harry - still am, still looking for Bk 2 and getting desperate! - and some day you are going to have to confess who your book crushes are!

Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the kind words again. Erlendur occupied an interesting place in this discussion. You would not call him a well-adjusted character. He has many of the typical detective's problems failed marriage, poor diet, and so on, yet the solitude seems to suit him, and he's a good fellow nonetheless. Maybe that combination is what makes him an attractive and interesting character.
 Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Nela San said...

Hi Susan, thanks for visiting my blog and to have added it in your list. Compliments for your new photo, it seems you're little bit a "lizard" like me trying to lay in the sun after a very very very long snowy winter...
By the way: do you know Jay Samorin? If not, I do believe you could fall in love with him too and, at least, you have the luck all novels with him are in English. Just spoken about him in my last post. Happy Easter, Susan!

Sheila Beaumont said...

Yes, I am in love with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of Louise Penny's Three Pines series! I'm definitely going to try Jo Nesbo's series. Harry sounds like someone I might also fall in love with!

Susan said...

Peter: what I find so interesting about Erlendur is the sadness he has about his brother's death. I understand that feeling of loss and never being able to correct it, and being irresistibly drawn back to it. He becomes not just an average detective, it makes him determined that no victim goes undiscovered, unheard, like his brother is, lost forever in the blizzard. He may be morose, but he also is, through the novels, learning to relate - albeit he's awful with his kids! and it's fun to see him trying with his new girlfriend; I think I like that about him too, that no matter how depressed he gets, he doesn't give up.

Nela: oh yes, I live for the sun! I love being warm. Kind of like a cat, though funny enough, lizard was a nickname a very long time ago in school for me!

Jay Samorin is vaguely familiar, I'll do a search and come see your blog :-)

Sheila: lol! I like Armande, I think he's a really interesting detective and I love the series. but I'm not in love with him, not like I'm in love with Harry Hole, blonde detective. You have to give Harry a try :-) and let me know!

Peter Rozovsky said...

And Arnaldur avoids making Erlendur's quest for his brother -- and for the solitude that quest brings -- into mawkish melodrama.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

raidergirl3 said...

I just read The Redbreast, and agree completely with your assessment of Harry Hole. He's not quite as damaged as Erlunder (whom I also adore), so it's easier to see that Harry can be healed. Can't wait to read the next one!

I also agree about the difference between this book and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I think that hard-core mystery fans never like The Girl series as much, because we read so many mysteries that we know when we read a great one, ie the Icelandic series by Arnaldur. The readers that have made The Girl series so popular probably don't read a lot of mysteries. If you only read one mystery a year, then yes, it's quite compelling. If you read 10-20 mysteries, it was a good read, but not in the top 5 of mysteries for your year.

Susan said...

Peter: I really agree with your assessment of how Arnaldur avoids making the drama of Erlendur's brother mawkish - far from it. In the latest paperback, Hypothermia, for the first time, we see Erlendur begin to understand how being lost in the snow storm affected him, too. It is quite moving and anything but mawkish. I found it surprisingly moving also.

raidergirl3: Thank you! I just reread my post now too because of your comment this weekend, and it still holds true for me too. I haven't read the other two in the Dragon series, but have read everything up to The Leopard now in the Harry Hole series. That man (ok he's a character, but really, he's as annoying and fascinating and wonderful as if he were real) is almost impossible, isn't he? That must be why we love him, that and his blue eyes and desire for the truth. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series as much, there are some excellent books for you to catch up with! lol