Harry Hole

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Harry Hole
Fassbender as Harry Hole.jpg
Michael Fassbender portraying Harry Hole
First appearanceThe Bat (1997)
Created byJo Nesbø
Portrayed byMichael Fassbender
In-universe information
OccupationPolice detective
AffiliationOslo Police Department
FamilySøs Hole (sister)
Olav Hole (father)
Rakel Fauke (wife)
Oleg Fauke (adopted son)

Harry Hole is the main character in a series of crime novels written by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø.[1] Hole is a brilliant and obsessively driven detective who uses unorthodox and sometimes illegal methods in his investigations. A recovering alcoholic prone to depression, the stress Hole's mental health suffers is often a focus of the stories. He has few friends and often clashes with colleagues. While later recognising his problematic behaviour and leaving the police force, he continues to find reason to assist with new criminal investigations even when it endangers him and loved ones.[2] Harry's surname "Hole" translates to "Hill" in English and is the name of a historic Norwegian town (Hole, Norway) with a heritage that goes back to the Viking Age. The name is derived from Old Norse Hólar, the plural form of hóll, meaning "round and isolated hill." The word is pronounced as two syllables, with stress on the first (HOO-leh). In The Bat, the Australian police call him "Harry Holy."

Critics liken the personality of Harry Hole to those of the famous literary detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Jules Maigret, and Nero Wolfe.[3] According to Jo Nesbø himself, the character is inspired by and a tribute to Michael Connelly's character Harry Bosch.The novels are frequent bestsellers.[4][5]


Harry Hole is introduced in The Bat as a police officer with the Oslo Crime Squad. He was born in 1965 and has a younger sister Søs, who has Down syndrome and to whom Harry is deeply attached. His mother, a descendant of the Sami people, died due to cancer while he was in his twenties. Harry never had a close relationship with his father Olav, a former teacher. He has few close friends, one of whom is Bjarne Møller, head of Hole's department. Other friends include Beate Lønn and Bjørn Holm in the forensics division, a Bergen detective named Katrine Bratt who helps secure specialist information, and Gunnar Hagen, his former senior officer prior to Phantom. Taxi driver Øystein Eikeland is an old school friend of Harry's and one of the people he is closest to.

Hole is a chain-smoker and heavy drinker who is introverted and prone to depression. He later stops drinking after realising he is an alcoholic. His encounters with assassins, corruption, and serial killers throughout the novels often strengthen his cynical attitude. His problematic and often unsocial behaviour, as well as his obsessive tendencies during investigations, brings him into repeated conflict with his superiors and some colleagues, many of whom dislike him while grudgingly respecting his work and abilities. Møller often shields Hole from being fired, believing he is a brilliant detective and that the Oslo Police Department needs him. Along with standard police training, Hole undertook specialised training in interrogation techniques and firearms at the FBI.

Harry Hole's home address is in Sofies Gate in Bislett located in the author's own home city of Oslo. Many of the stories involve detailed background and descriptions of real locations such as the actual Oslo Police Department headquarters. Hole regularly interacts with city residents and immigrants from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. Many of the novels feature his favourite "watering hole," Restaurant Schrøder (Schrøder's, for short) in St. Hanshaugen.

Hole develops a serious relationship with Rakel Fauke, whose son, Oleg, sees Harry as a father figure and sometimes calls him "dad." After the seventh novel The Snowman, their relationship suffers and a traumatised Harry leaves the police force. The next novel The Leopard shows Harry living in self-imposed exile in Hong Kong. Kaja Solness, a new Norwegian Crime Squad officer, asks him to return to Oslo to help investigate a possible serial killing. Learning his father Olav is also ill and likely to soon die, Hole returns to Oslo. During the story, Olav asks his son to assist in his suicide in order to end his pain, but Harry cannot bring himself to do so. At the end of the book, Harry has a brief reunion with Rakel before then visiting the imprisoned killer of The Snowman. It is implied that Harry then aids in the criminal's own suicide. Disturbed by his recent experiences, Harry determines to return to Hong Kong for good.

The next book Phantom depicts Harry returning to Oslo yet again some time later, this time because Rakel's son Oleg has been arrested for murder. Harry finds out the truth behind the murder, but is then shot and the book ends without clarifying if he will survive or not. Harry is revealed to be alive and living again in Oslo in the tenth novel Police. Deciding his obsessive pursuit of criminals has cost him too much, he now lectures at the Police College and resumes a relationship with Rakel. A series of killings leads his former colleagues to seek him out for help. Following these events, Harry marries Rakel and adopts Oleg as his son. He promises he is done with police work, but finds himself drawn into another investigation in the following novel The Thirst.


  • In Flaggermusmannen (1997), translated as The Bat (2012), Hole is sent to Sydney, Australia to aid the Australian police in their investigation of the murder of a Norwegian citizen.
  • In Kakerlakkene (1998), translated as Cockroaches (2013), Hole is sent to Thailand to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador.
  • In Rødstrupe (2000), translated as The Redbreast (2006), Hole encounters Neo-Nazism and the legacy of World War II as he tracks an assassin planning an attack on a prominent member of the establishment.
  • In Sorgenfri (2002), translated as Nemesis (2008), Hole investigates a fatal bank robbery and is implicated in the apparent murder of an ex-girlfriend.
  • In Marekors (2003), translated as The Devil's Star (2005), Hole investigates a series of serial killings and suspects a fellow policeman of criminal activity. The popularity of this novel led to it being the first Harry Hole book to be translated into English, followed by The Redbreast.
  • In Frelseren (2005), translated as The Redeemer by Don Bartlett (2009), Hole is on the trail of a Croatian hitman who kills a Salvation Army officer during a Christmas street concert.
  • In Snømannen (2007), translated as The Snowman by Don Bartlett (2010), Hole struggles to identify Norway's first serial killer, who seems to have resurfaced years after their last crime.
  • Panserhjerte (2009), translated as The Leopard by Don Bartlett (2011). Having left the police force and exiled himself to Hong Kong following the events of The Snowman, Harry is now asked to return to Oslo to unofficially aid in the investigation of a serial killer.
  • In Gjenferd (2011), translated as Phantom by Don Bartlett (2012), Hole once again returns to Oslo from Hong Kong when his ex-girlfriend Rakel's son Oleg is arrested for murder. His investigation draws him into Oslo's drug scene.
  • Politi (2013), translated as Police (2013). Living in Oslo again and working as a lecturer at the Police College, Hole is asked to help track down a serial killer targetting police officers.
  • In Tørst (2017), translated as The Thirst (2017), Harry promises his wife he is done with police work, but is compelled to investigate when a killer who vanished years earlier suddenly resurfaces, now masquerading as a vampirist.
  • Kniv (2019), translated as Knife. Waking up with a ferocious hangover, Harry finds his hands and clothes covered in blood. Coming face-to-face with an old, deadly foe, Hole faces perhaps his darkest personal challenge yet.

In other media[edit]


The seventh novel in the series, The Snowman, was adapted as a film in 2017 and starred Michael Fassbender[6] as Harry Hole, with Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ronan Vibert, Val Kilmer and J.K. Simmons.


  1. ^ "A GUIDE TO HARRY HOLE". crimefictionlover.com. March 9, 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  2. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (February 17, 2012). "Crime Pays: Jo Nesbø Talks about Killing Harry Hole and the Best Job in the World". The Millions. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  3. ^ Лаптева, Елена (30 March 2013). "Ю.Несбе: "В каждом из нас есть немного зла"". Комсомольская правда (in Russian). kp.ru. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Norway Crime Author Jo Nesbo Earns $51 Million Book Royalties in 2019". forbes. 19 August 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2020."
  5. ^ "Nesbo's Popularity Still Riding High". newsinenglish. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  6. ^ Trumbore, Dave (September 5, 2017). "'The Snowman': New Trailer Introduces Michael Fassbender's Detective by Name". Collider.com. Retrieved 8 September 2017.

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