Why did I read it? A number of my friends have been recommending the Harry Hole series to me, and the books keep appearing on (targeted) recommending reading lists. As "The Bat" was the first book in the Harry Hole series, and it was released in audio format, almost at the same time as the print copy, I downloaded it.
Aside from which, it was a Scandi-Nordic, crime fiction story set in Australia. How could I resist?
What's it about? Harry Hole is in Australia as the representative of the Norwegian police in the investigation of the murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian national. Upon arrival, he is met by Andrew Kensington, an indigenous Australian policeman who guides Harry through the investigation, despite attempts to side-line him. It soon becomes clear that Inger's death is just one of many of young, blonde women up and down the eastern seaboard.
What did I like? Let's start with the narration by Sean Barrett. His vocal characterisation was so solid that just before the perpetrator’s name was revealed, I knew who it was by voice alone. General Australian accents are reasonably well done, even if regional differences are omitted. Have to love the various pronunciations of Harry's surname, too; it provided me with giggles. I felt the pacing of the audiobook was perfectly matched to the storyline; and it helped build the tension for me. It seems as though a considerable amount of Harry Hole's past is revealed in this book, and I think I might have appreciated "The Redbreast" (3rd in the Harry Hole series) more had I been able to read the Harry Hole series in chronological order.
I particularly enjoyed the view of my compatriots from the Norwegian perspective, well Harry Hole's perspective at least. The comparison made between Australia and New Zealand by one policeman was particularly amusing.There are great characters in this book, many of whom act as narrators of stories and tales; some of which act as clues, and Harry narrates his own past. "The Bat" was very much a character piece, and I enjoyed that aspect of it; even so, the investigation unfolded in a wonderful way; the whole coming together beautifully.
I don't understand those reviewers who say this is one of Jo Nesbø's weaker books, believing he has improved as the series has progressed, because I found "The Bat" far more enjoyable than "The Redbreast". Then again, that could be because I knew nothing of Harry Hole or his past, so did not understand his actions, or thinking.
What didn't I like? I'm not sure I have anything bad to say about this book, except, perhaps the fate of the perpetrator, I could kind of see it coming when I knew the location, which ever-so-slightly spoiled the end for me. A very small gripe though.
Would I recommend it? Oh yes. Definitely. This book made me laugh out loud, and cry, too. Odd for a crime fiction, I should think. I would also recommend the audiobook, as read by Sean Barrett.