The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
A woman is found murdered after an internet date. The marks left on her body show the police that they are dealing with a particularly vicious killer. AND HE’S OUT FOR BLOOD Under pressure from the media to solve the crime, the force know there’s only one man for the job. But Harry Hole is reluctant to return to the place that almost took everything from him. Until he starts to suspect a connection between this killing and his one failed case…
There’s a vampire on the loose on the streets of Oslo. All right, technically a vampirist – actual vampires don’t exist. But try telling that to this one’s victims. Well, you can’t. They’re dead.
But first things first. For the uninitiated, it’s not pronounced ‘Hole’. It’s ‘Hoo-leh’, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Secondly, Hole is also the name of a Norwegian town with links all the way back to the Vikings, and literally translated means ‘round and isolated hill’.
Which pretty much sums up Jo Nesbo’s alter ego and hero, Harry Hole: a rounded but isolated character. The Thirst is his eleventh outing after a gap of almost four years; Harry Hole fans have indeed been thirsting for more since 2013’s Police, in which Hole returned to the Oslo force after a serial killer began bumping off his former colleagues.
He’s still an old curmudgeon, though, is Harry. A loner, a loose cannon, and no respecter of authority. Fans – of which there are legions – compare him to Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Jules Maigret. And there are similarities – like Holmes, Hole has his addictions. He’s a chain-smoker and a functioning alcoholic. He has Poirot’s analytical mind and Maigret’s unflinching determination to get his man.
Conan Doyle used foggy, hansom-cab clip-clopping London as not just a backdrop to many Holmes mysteries but as a character in its own right, and Nesbo does the same with Oslo. Real-life locations pepper the story – restaurants and bars; the hangouts of neo-Nazis, druggies and prostitutes. It gives the Harry Hole books a rugged, warts-and-all charm and edge.
The first vampire victim is Elise Hermansen, her lifeblood comprehensively drunk by whoever bit her with prosthetic metal teeth during a Tinder date. (If you use Tinder to find Mr or Miss Right, you may want to skip The Thirst until you’ve found your soulmate.)
Harry Hole is happily in semi-retirement lecturing at the Police College. But Police Chief Mikael Bellman – the man tipped to be Norway’s next Minister of Justice – cannot afford to fail to crack a bizarre case making headlines around the world. Harry reluctantly agrees to rejoin his old colleagues on the Oslo Crime Squad. It’s now led by Katrine Bratt; Bjørn Holm still rides point on the forensics side; the man Harry calls ‘Boss’, Gunnar, bestrides the department. So the old team is in place and ready to go – along with intriguing newcomer Hallstein Smith, an international expert on vampirism. It’s he who will profile the killer.
But the revolting murders continue. Whoever is behind them gets a sadistic sexual kick out of drinking human blood. And Harry isn’t helped by a series of leaks about the investigation to the media. He tries to set a trap for the killer, but the target is somehow always one step ahead and evades capture.
There’s a storming finish to The Thirst – and your own thirst for a great story will have been unquestionably slaked when you turn the final page. Ten out of ten, Jo Nesbo.
Read an Extract of The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
A match on Tinder.
The triumphant sound your phone makes when someone you’ve already swiped right on swipes your picture right as well.
Elise’s head was spinning, her heart was racing. She knew it was the familiar response to the sound of Tinder’s matchmaking: increased heart rate as a consequence of excitement. That it released a whole load of happy chemicals that you could become addicted to. But that wasn’t why her heart was galloping. It was because the ping hadn’t come from her phone.
But the ping had rung out at the very moment she’d swiped right on a picture. The picture of a person who, according to Tinder, was less than a kilometre away from her.
She stared at the closed bedroom door. Swallowed. The sound must have come from one of the neighbouring apartments. There were lots of single people living in the block, lots of potential Tinder users. And everything was quiet now, even on the floor below where the girls had been having a party when she went out earlier that evening. But there was only one way to get rid of imaginary monsters. By checking.
Then she spun round, got some air into her lungs, and knew she had to use it to run, not scream.
Elise got up from the sofa and walked the four steps over to the bedroom door. Hesitated. A couple of assault cases from work swirled through her head.
Then she pulled herself together and opened the door. She found herself standing in the doorway gasping for air. Because there wasn’t any. None that she could breathe.
The light above the bed was switched on, and the first thing she saw was the soles of a pair of cowboy boots sticking off the end of the bed. Jeans and a pair of long legs, crossed. The man lying there was like the photograph, half in darkness, half out of focus. But he had unbuttoned his shirt to reveal his bare chest. And on his chest was a drawing or a tattoo of a face. That was what caught her eye now. The silently screaming face. As if it were held tight and was trying to pull free. Elise couldn’t bring herself to scream either.
As the person on the bed sat up, the light from his mobile phone fell across his face.
‘So we meet again, Elise,’ he whispered.
And the voice made her realise why the profile picture had seemed familiar to her. His hair was a different colour. And his face must have been operated on – she could see the scars left by stitches.
He raised his hand and shoved something into his mouth.
Then she was yanked free and the door slammed shut in front of her
Elise stared at him as she backed away. Then she spun round, got some air into her lungs, and knew she had to use it to run, not scream. The front door was only five steps away, six at most. She heard the bed creak, but he had further to run. If she could just get out into the stairwell she’d be able to scream and get some help. She made it to the hallway and reached the door, tugged the handle down and pushed, but the door wouldn’t open properly.
The security chain. She tried to pull the door closed, to grab the chain, but it was all taking too long, like a bad dream, and she knew it was too late. Something was pressed over her mouth and she was dragged backwards.
In desperation she stuck her hand through the opening above the security chain, grabbed hold of the door frame outside, tried to scream, but the huge nicotine- stinking hand was clamped tightly over her mouth. Then she was yanked free and the door slammed shut in front of her. The voice whispered in her ear: ‘Didn’t you like me? You don’t look as good as your profile picture either, baby. We just need to get to know each other better, we didn’t have a chance for that last t‑time.’
Book Club Questions for The Thirst
1. Discuss the reasons behind Harry’s return to the police force.
2. What do you think about the way that Detective Inspector Katrine Bratt handles her team and her superiors?
3. Does Hallstein Smith’s past explain his actions?
4. By the end of The Thirst, has Harry found happiness?