Cockroaches: An early Harry Hole case - Jo Nesbø

He saw something move in the gloom..he had read that there were more than three thousand different types of cockroach. He had also read that they hide when they hear the vibrations of someone approaching and that for every cockroach you can see there are at least ten hiding.


Harry is sent to Thailand to investigate the murder of Atle Molne, the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand, who was found in a motel with a knife in his back. He's warned to stay sober (yeah, right) and to proceed discreetly; after all, in such a potentially high profile case, he mustn't reveal evidence that would shame his own country.


From the moment Harry enters the taxicab in Bangkok, readers are given the sense that this city isn't Nesbo's favorite place. We are oppressed by the heat, suffocated by the fumes, driven insane by the incessant noise; our blood pressures are raised to boiling by the solid, immovable mass of traffic and our appetites lost by the 'appearance' of strange moving things in Harry's noodles. The nefarious side of Bangkok life is clearly depicted.


"The motel was identical to the American variety..when it appeared during the Vietnam War, it was one of the liveliest places in town. Built for horny US soldiers on R&R. Popularly known as I&I: intercourse and intoxication...The sex industry in this country couldn't be what it is today without the US military. One of the streets here is even officially called Soi Cowboy." (p.46)


Going through the usual protocol with the local crime team, Harry finds that, like all roads lead to Rome, all crimes fester in Thailand. Not only was Molne unskilled for his position (leaving Harry to question how far up the stink of corruption went for that to happen), he seemed to have been involved in all sorts of nasty, illegal doings.


"There are probably more perverts in Thailand per square inch than in the whole world, people who have come here because we have a sex industry that meets all needs. And I mean all needs." (p.60)


In Cockroaches, an unappetizing buffet from open prostitution ( male, female and gender-ambiguous) to the more underworld dealings of child pornography, drug trafficking and million-dollar money schemes are laid out for Harry to feast upon. Disgusted by the city's degenerate "aura", at the same time haunted by the still unresolved rape case of his sister, Harry has enough reasons to welcome alcoholic unconsciousness.


This second installment in the Hole series was mediocre for me. Although the action parts had their adrenalin-pumping effects, they were few and far between; some scenes were typical Nesbo-style gruesome, a presence well- appreciated in the novel. The plot was sustaining, but in the same sense, clichéd. I get the allusions drawn by the cockroaches crawling out of the dark corners at night-it was a good attempt. Obviously to Harry followers, it was not the best. Had I not read the later books first, I probably would have washed my hands of the Hole shebang after this one; which leads me to believe that releasing the older novels first was an ingenious marketing strategy. After all, that's how you create an addict- give them the best first.