Nemesis (Nesbø novel)

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Nemesis (Nesbø novel).jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Jo Nesbø
Original title Sorgenfri
Translator Don Bartlett
Country Norway (episodes in Brazil and Egypt, ongoing events in Russia significantly affecting the plot)
Language Norwegian
Series Harry Hole, #4
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Aschehoug
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
ISBN 82-525-4910-1
OCLC 52064471
Preceded by The Redbreast
Followed by The Devil's Star

Nemesis (Norwegian: Sorgenfri, is a 2002 crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø, the fourth in the Harry Hole series.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

A fatal bank robbery in Oslo must be solved, but Harry also has to deal with two women who are important to him, while trying to stay away from the alcohol which continues to have him in its grip.

This book introduces for the first time the character of Beate Lønn, who will become an important part of the series, a valued partner of Harry's who significantly interacts with other characters. Highly courageous and dedicated, she is the daughter of a police officer killed by a bank robber and has joined the police in order to emulate him; she has the unique ability to remember every face she had ever seen; to begin with, she is very shy and easily embarrassed, though she will gain confidence in the course of this and later books.[2]


A bank robbery is committed by a lone robber in a balaclava mask. Holding a bank teller hostage, he demands that the bank's ATM be emptied within 25 seconds before the police can arrive, or he will kill her. To conceal his voice, he makes the hostage speak his demands, whispered into her ear. The bank manager empties the ATM, but it takes him 31 seconds. Taking the money, the robber whispers one last time to the hostage before shooting her.

Initially given to the robberies unit, the case remains unsolved. However, a police video evidence expert, Beate Lønn, surmises that, since the robber and hostage are intimately close together, the robber knew his victim well. The case is transferred to Lønn and Harry Hole, treating it as a murder investigation.

Further bank robberies occur in the same way. However, successful emptying of the ATMs within the specified time limit mean that no other tellers are killed.

Whilst his girlfriend, Rakel, and her son Oleg are in Moscow on a parental custody case (Oleg's Russian father has sued for the return of his son), Harry Hole is invited to dinner at the flat of an old girlfriend. Anna, a flamboyant painter of minor skill, intends to have an art show which she wants to call Nemesis.

The following morning, Harry awakens in his own apartment with the classic symptoms of a hangover, headache and short-term memory loss regarding the events of the night before. Later that day, Anna Bethsen is found dead, an apparent suicide. But the gun is held in her right hand, and Harry knows Anna was left-handed, so he believes this is a disguised murder. A photograph found near her body suggests the involvement of a rich businessman, who may have been Anna's lover.

Harry, who has concealed his presence in Anna's flat, now is in a race against time to discover the murderer before he is implicated himself. With no memory of the night of her death, he is even uncertain that he himself is not the killer. Learning that Anna was a gypsy, Harry enlists the help of Anna's blood relative, Raskol, a former bank robber now in prison, the latter's insights into the robberies in exchange for Harry solving the murder of his niece. Harry's dealings with Raskol extend also to getting from him considerable sums of money to finance a private investigation for which Harry cannot use police resources - an act which, had it been discovered, could have led to Harry losing his job and being prosecuted.

Further evidence plus Raskol's suggestions send Harry and Beate Lønn on a visit to a robbery suspect hiding in Porto Seguro, Brazil, but the man is found hanging from a beam in his home, another apparent suicide.

Back home, Harry receives a number of e-mails from the murderer, signed S2MN, which give him insights into the latter's mind. But simultaneously, Detective Inspector Tom Waaler, a thorn in Harry's side in The Redbreast (the previous novel), learns of Harry's visit to Anna and, with great delight, prepares to arrest him. Harry now finds himself on the run.

He forwards the incriminating e-mails to Beate Lønn as evidence of his innocence. But forensics determines that the e-mails were sent on time-delay by a modem connected to Harry's own (missing) mobile phone, so Harry is still implicated. Tom Waaler, meanwhile, uncovers another former lover of Anna's, who may also have robbed the banks. But he shoots him dead when he seems to resist arrest, just as he had done to a murder suspect in the Redbreast investigation, so that line of inquiry is closed.

Eventually, the strange signature on the e-mails, S2MN, is deciphered when Harry catches sight of it in a mirror. Now reading NM2S, he deduces that the 2 represents a second S, and that running the letters together phonetically, it sounds like the word Nemesis ("revenge"), the name of Anna's intended art show. His "hangover" symptoms are proven by forensic evidence to be the effects of being drugged. Anna's death was therefore an intricate suicide, which she had plotted to confuse and convict Harry and two other former lovers, all of whom had abandoned her. This solution also leads Harry to realize that the first bank robber was, in fact, the husband of the murdered bank teller, who had intended to leave him for his brother in Brazil. The inescapable conclusion is that all the crimes were done for love.

Thanks to Raskol's gypsy contacts, Rakel wins the custody battle for Oleg and returns to Norway with him. But even now Harry cannot relax. He has gotten wind of a witness in the murder of his former colleague, killed during the Redbreast investigation into a mysterious gun smuggler. The witness may have seen Ellen's murderer with the smuggler, known only as the Prince. Harry shows him a picture of his new prime suspect...

In fact, the reader knows much more than Harry, having been told a lot by the omniscient author. The ending clearly sets the stage for a shattering showdown in the following book.


As with other Harry Hole novels, the novel was translated from Norwegian into English by Don Bartlett.


  1. ^ Sutterud, Tone (23 April 2008). "Nemesis, By Jo Nesbo, trans. Don Bartlett When a man's girlfriend is in Moscow, what's he to do? Kill his ex, of course". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  2. ^ Walker, Fiona (March 2008). "Nesbo, Jo - 'Nemesis' (translated by Don Bartlett)". Retrieved 4 May 2017. 

External links[edit]