Norway’s “Dirty Harry!” Oslo’s Toughest Cop Harry Hole! Time For “Nordic Noir!”

Raise your hand if you love Dirty Harry! Now, imagine a series of crime thrillers set in Norway – starring Harry Hole, Norway’s version of “Dirty Harry!”


What a gorgeous city – Oslo, Norway – the home to Harry Hole, and “Nordic Noir!”

Every beautiful city has a little crime to solve, and Oslo is no different – except they have Harry Hole!

If you LOVED “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” trilogy like I did, you may be itching for some more “nordic noir” – tough mystery novels set in the eastern European region encompassing Sweden, Finland, Denmark – or in this case, Norway…where it rains alot, snows even more, and is cold, dark, and deadly…

I can’t shake the image of “Dirty Harry” as I read these books, which are all terrific mysteries, with a brooding protagonist with a ton of personal demons…all set against the cold, iciness of Norway – hence, “nordic noir.”


Nordic noir, a type of “Scandie lit”, refers to the literature genre of Scandinavian crime fiction. According to the British paper The Independent, “Nordic crime fiction carries a more respectable cachet… than similar genre fiction produced in Britain or the US”. Language, heroes and settings are three commonalities in Nordic crime fiction, which features plain, direct writing style without metaphor.


I am now hooked on Norwegian Author Jo Nesbo – he is an award-winning Norwegian Author who has mastered a series of novels starring Detective Harry Hole – who does he remind me of? How about this guy…


Jo Nesbo is a terrific writer…here is what his website says: “With his nine internationally acclaimed crime novels featuring Detective Harry Hole, Jo Nesbø has achieved an unparalleled success both in his native country Norway and abroad, winning the hearts of critics, booksellers and readers alike. Translated into more than forty languages, awarded a whole range of awards and boasting record-breaking sales, Nesbø has been lavishly praised by international critics for broadening the scope of the contemporary crime novel, and is today regarded as one the best crime writers of our time.”

I have now read three of the nine Harry Hole books – and am devouring each of them as fast as I can…what’s fascinating is this: based on the amazing success of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, Publishers rushed to get more “nordic noir” novels into the states, but not always in order…therefore, the first two in the Harry Hole series, “The Bat” and “The Cockroaches” are still unavailable in the US – so as you see this list, know these are the books – IN ORDER – that are available…

But don’t worry – while there are some ongoing threads in Hole’s life, each story is self-contained, and you will quickly get to know Harry Hole and his demons…


Harry Hole is an alcoholic, anti-social and quite brilliant Oslo detective, who plays by his own rules…like I said, Norway’s Dirty Harry, but trust me, Harry Hole is anything buy cliche once you get into the stories…

Here are the books in order of release…

“The Redbreast” – Harry Hole #3

1944. In the trenches outside Leningrad on the Eastern Front a unit of Norwegian soldiers in German uniforms fight for the cause they believe in: a free Norway. Coming from all social strata, they do not share politics or a motivation for being there. The boldest of them, Daniel Gudeson, is shot and his body is laid in a mass grave to be burned. Some time later, however, in a military hospital in Vienna, a wounded soldier turns up saying that he is Daniel Gudeson. And he and a nurse, Helene, fall in love…

Years later, Detective Harry Hole has to try and solve one murder while preventing another….

This book, to me, had the most Norwegian historical background that may not resonate immediately with noir fans…since I didn’t start with this book, I noticed it more – it’s really good once you get past that aspect of it…but if you are a bit less willing to absorb it right off the bat, I’d say go straight to the next book…or if you really want to drop into the middle of the madness, start with “THE SNOWMAN”!

“Nemesis” – Harry Hole #4

Grainy CCTV footage shows a man walking into a bank and putting a gun to a cashier”s head. He tells her to count to twenty-five. When he doesn”t get his money in time, she is executed. Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case. While Harry”s girlfriend is away in Russia, an old flame gets in touch. He goes to dinner at her house and wakes up at home with no memory of the past twelve hours. The same morning the girl is found shot dead in her bed.

I am just beginning this book now…

“The Devil’s Star” – Harry Hole #5

It”s a sweltering summer in Oslo when a young woman is found murdered in her flat. One finger has been cut off, and beneath her eyelid is a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five pointed star. Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with Tom Waaler – a colleague Harry suspects of running an arms smuggling gang and of having murdered his partner – and initially he refuses to become involved.

“The Redeemer” – Harry Hole #6

A 14-year old girl is raped at one of the Salvation Army summer camps. Twelve years later, at a Christmas concert in a square in Oslo, a Salvation Army soldier is executed by a man in the crowd. A press photographer has caught a suspect on one of the photos of the concert. Beate Lønn, the identification expert, is confused by how the face can change from one photo to the next. Inspector Harry Hole’s search for the faceless man takes place on the seamy side of the city…

Reading a bit out of order, I read this most recently…it’s impossible to put down…

“The Snowman” – Harry Hole #7

It is November in Oslo and the first snow of the year has fallen. Birte Becker comes home from work and praises the snowman her husband and son have made in the garden. But they haven’t made a snowman. As the family stand by the sitting room window looking out in amazement at the snowman, the son notices that it is facing the house. The black eyes are staring at the window. At them.

It is up to Harry Hole to find out who “The Snowman” is before more people die…

This was my first Harry Hole novel, and I was HOOKED – Nesbo really knows how to tell a compelling story!

“The Leopard” – Harry Hole #8

This is the latest release in the US –

Two women are found murdered in Oslo – both of them have drowned in their own blood. What mystifies the police, is that the puncture wounds in the victim’s faces have been caused from the inside of their mouths. Kaja Solness from Homicide is sent to Hong Kong to track down a man that is the Oslo Police Department’s only specialist on serial killings. The severely addicted detective has tried to disappear in the vast, anonymous city. He is on the run and haunted by his last case…

There is a new release in Europe right now, so we are still a book behind, but there is plenty to catch up on!

No matter what order you read them in, you will be hooked by a great central character, lots of action and twisted stories that will make you think along with Harry Hole…

The Nordic Dirty Harry!

Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, Film Noir, Foreign Films, Jo Nesbo / Nordic Noir, Movies, Politics, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized

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1 reply


  1. Classic “Nordic Noir!” Terrific Crime Fiction From “Department Q”! Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole Novels Rock! – johnrieber

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