Darkness had fallen before they reached Sydney, but the TV mast stood like a massive lightbulb in the center of the town and showed them the way. Andrew drew in at Circular Quay, not far from the Opera House. A bat hirled in and out of the car headlights at great speed. Andrew lit a cigar and motioned for Harry to remain in the car. “The bat is the Aboriginal symbol of death. Did you know that?” – from The Bat –
Harry Hole is a detective from Norway, but when a Norwegian native is murdered in Australia, Harry must get on a plane to help solve the crime. The Bat is the first novel in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and it is an introduction to Harry as well as an interesting and twisty mystery. Harry Hole is a chick magnet (and he finds plenty of women who appreciate his good looks in Australia), but he also carries some significant emotional baggage and a history of alcohol abuse. In Australia, he is paired up with an Aboriginal detective named Andrew who also harbors some dark secrets. The plot initially appears simple, and then begins to veer along unexpected paths.
Nesbo explores Aboriginal history and lore, as well as revealing some of the racism that is apparently present in Australian culture towards the Aboriginal people. His characters are well developed and he inserts some black humor into the narrative (although there were times I wondered if the humor I was seeing was real or due to the translation from Norwegian).
The Bat is an engaging first in a series novel that was not without its flaws. At times I found the pace slow, and some of the twists at the end felt a bit contrived. Despite those faults, I did enjoy the book and look forward to picking up the next novel in the series.