Friday, November 5, 2010

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

The specter of fascism serves as the main character in Nesbo's story of Norwegians who fought with the Nazis . They were volunteers in the Waffen SS. "About 15 000 Norwegians volunteered for the Wehrmacht or SS during the years 1940-1945, and an estimate of 7000 reached the front lines in some way." Some historians say that the number of men who joined as volunteer soldiers was much higher.

About 45,000 Norwegian collaborators had joined the pro-Nazi party Nasjonal Samling.

At the end of the war a number of Norwegians were tried as traitors and served time in prison.

"In total, 28,750 individuals were arrested as part of the purge; they were subject to various kinds of penalties, including fines, prison sentences, and in a small number of cases, death."


This is also a story of the emergence of Neo-Nazi cells in Norway. Nesbo describes a skinhead who is tried for a vicious attack on a Vietnamese restaurant owner and let's off ugly tirades in the courtroom. He is ultimately freed because of a technicality.

In particular it's a tale of several soldiers who were together during the war, some of whom became embittered old men. Their lives once again intersect during the novel. One of the men is intent on killing—but we're not certain we know the intended target of his rage. As the story unfolds Nesbo reveals the convoluted lives and lies of members of the group.

The story alternates between the present and the past. Detective Harry Holes discovers that someone has smuggled an expensive and deadly rifle into Norway. The story is ultimately about unraveling the relationships between the men and finding the assassin. Throughout the story Nesbo introduces a cast of interesting minor characters and sub-plots.

This is a political thriller and a too human story of racial hatred played out on a large scale and than an intimate scale. I found parts of the story fascinating and some parts quite confusing. Part of the confusion was due to the similarity of names. But that was a small blemish.

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