Since the words were first emblazoned on the cover of The Leopard, the eighth book in his Harry Hole series, Norway's Nesbø has been routinely hailed as the next Stieg Larsson – not a comparison Nesbø relishes. But among next-wave Scandinavian writers, Nesbø does come closest to achieving Larsson's international celebrity, selling 23 million copies of his books worldwide.
If you like Jim Thompson's cult classics, you'll find Nesbø's violent intensity reminiscent.
The Detective: Inspector Harry Hole of the Crime Squad, Oslo Police Department. "Muscular but shockingly gaunt," with ice-blue eyes, Hole is a recovering alcoholic who occasionally falls off the wagon, solving cases in a near-mystical boozy haze. He works in Nesbø's hometown of Oslo – the stories are a guide to real locations.
Background: Like many Nordic bestselling authors, Nesbø turned to writing novels after a string of careers in other realms – he was a stockbroker, a soccer player, and a songwriter, bassist, and singer for Norway's Di Derre, with whom he still sometimes tours.
Influences: "My father grew up in Brooklyn, and he read Mark Twain to me. I think that was my introduction to what I see as the generous, self-confident, and rich style of American storytelling, which I see continued by great storytellers like Paul Auster, Tom Wolfe, and John Irving."
Read: Nesbø's standalone novel The Son came out this spring and sets up camp in the strange criminal twilight of Sonny Lofthus' life. A heroin addict serving time for other people's crimes, he's checked out but oddly charismatic, becoming a kind of jailhouse saint who entertains the confessions of other prisoners. But when he learns his Oslo-cop father has been framed and murdered, Lofthus kicks his heroin habit, breaks out of jail, and goes about brutally avenging the death. (Channing Tatum is onboard as star and co-producer for an upcoming film adaptation.)