The Redeemer (novel)

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The Redeemer
The Redeemer - book cover.jpg
Paperback edition
Author Jo Nesbø
Original title Frelseren
Translator Don Bartlett
Country Norway (some episodes in Croatia)
Language Norwegian
Series Harry Hole, #6
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Harvill Secker
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 571 pp (Eng. paperback trans.)
Preceded by The Devil's Star
Followed by The Snowman

The Redeemer is a novel by popular Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø, part of his Harry Hole series.[1][2]


The Redeemer begins by describing an incident which took place a number of years in the past, in 1991, at a youth camp run by the Norwegian Salvation Army. A young, 14-year-old girl – the daughter of a senior official in the Salvation Army – is raped in a public toilet on the site. Due to the Salvation Army's strict hierarchical setup, and also because revelation of the rape will severely damage the Salvation Army's reputation, she does not tell anyone about the ordeal. The name of the assailant is not given; the chapter includes mention of several young men who would play major roles in the later plot, and it could have been any of them.

Another aspect of the past, scattered in numerous flashbacks throughout the book, is vivid reminiscences of the 1991 Battle of Vukovar during the Breakup of Yugoslavia, and of the atrocities committed in its aftermath by the victorious Serb militias. Similar to the flashbacks to the Second World War in "The Redbreast", these are integral to the book's plot - having formed the character of a young Vukovar Croat fighter who received the nickname "Little Redeemer", who would later become a professional hitman, carrying out contract killings in various European cities.

The action moves to the present day (2003), and the Croat assassin – calling himself Stankic – arrives in Oslo and kills a Salvation Army officer during a Christmas street concert. The hitman has a facial anomaly known as hyperelasticity, wherein his facial muscles can be manipulated voluntarily to stop people from recognizing him. As such, despite the murder happening in a public place the Norwegian police get little useful information regarding the murderer. The reader already does know who pulled the trigger – however, the identity of the customer who paid for the killing and this customer's motives remain unknown, and are at the center of the mystery which must be unravelled.

Meanwhile, the senior Police Inspector from the Oslo Police, Bjarne Møller, retires. As a parting gesture, he gives his three main officers, Jack Halvorsen (called Halvorsen by his colleagues), Beate Lønn – Halvorsen's girlfriend – and Harry Hole gifts. Harry's is a wristwatch which grows to annoy him due to its incessant ticking. At one point, he even throws it out the window of his apartment, though he later recovers it from the packed snow. Møller is replaced by Gunnar Hagen.

Harry, Halvorsen and Beate are assigned to the murder of the Salvation Army officer – a man called Robert Karlsen. When a murder attempt is made on Robert's brother, Jon Karlsen, it is believed that the Karlsen family is being attacked.

Harry's former girlfriend, Rakel, has now left him and is with another man, Matthias Lund-Helgesen (who is to become a major character in the next Harry Hole novel, The Snowman), and Harry meets – and eventually begins a relationship with – Martine, the young woman who (unbeknownst to Harry) was raped at the start of the novel.

Harry finds clues that lead him to Croatia and he makes contact with the hitman's minder who is revealed to be Stankic's mother. He makes a deal with her to save her son's life, but upon returning to Norway discovers that a man wearing Stankic's clothes has been shot and killed by an armed police marksman. The dead man's face is all but obliterated and identification is near-impossible.

There is a clue, however, in the dead man's DNA, after Halvorsen is fatally wounded outside Jon Karlsen's flat. The blood of the dead man does not match that of Stankic, whose blood was found at the scene of the attack on Halvorsen. Harry continues to follow Stankic, but now knows that Stankic was contracted to kill Jon Karlsen by Jon Karlsen himself. Jon switched places with his brother (the two looked very similar so Stankic did not notice the difference) so that his brother's murder could not be blamed on him. When in Croatia, setting up the hit, Jon had posed as Robert.

Jon is also swindling the Salvation Army out of 5,000,000 krone for an apartment block. On the night of an indoor Christmas concert in a concert hall, Jon Karlsen stands up his girlfriend, Thea, claiming that his father – in Thailand – is ill and that he is going to fly out to him. Stankic and later Harry Hole both get the information from Thea that Jon is about to flee the country.

Stankic catches up with Jon in a toilet block some distance from the main airport terminal. Harry also catches up with the two of them there, and gets Jon to give a full confession, stating that anything said with a gun (Stankic's) to his head is inadmissible in court. Jon tells everything, believing that he will be set free, but Harry instead tells Stankic that Jon's bag contains 5,000,000 krone and walks away. Behind him a single shot is heard. In effect, Harry has become an Accessory Before the Act to murder.

Part of the confession includes that it was Jon Karlsen, not Stankic, who fatally wounded Halvorsen. Harry also knows that it was Jon who raped Martine some years earlier, and that he has been raping young girls regularly ever since. Jon is seen to have been an unreliable narrator, as numerous episodes told from his point of view in earlier parts of the book gave the impression of his being an honest, well-meaning person.

Owing to the high valuation that an antique dealer puts on the watch given to him by Bjarne Møller, Harry also realises that his former boss was involved in the same group of corrupt police officers as his former nemesis, Tom Waaler. Harry goes to Bergen to speak with Møller, but after Møller describes that he was trying to do what was best for the Force, Harry elects not to arrest him.

English translation[edit]

As with previous Harry Hole novels by Jo Nesbø, the book - called Frelseren in Norwegian - was translated into English by Don Bartlett.


  1. ^ East, Ben (25 October 2009). "The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  2. ^ Jakeman, Jane. "The Redeemer, By Jo Nesbo, trans Don Bartlett Reviewed by Jane Jakeman". Retrieved May 4, 2017. 

External links[edit]