Jo Nesbø is the Norwegian bestselling author of the Harry Hole books featuring the Crime Squad detective who begins working with the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos) on cases including serial killers, assassins, bank robbers, drug lords, organized international criminals, and other baddies both at ahome and abroad.
Here are the Jo Nesbø books in order for his established Harry Hole (Hole is pronounced Hoola) series, as well as his newer Blood On Snow series, his more upbeat Doctor Proctor children’s series, and his standalone novels.
New Jo Nesbo Books
Harry Hole Series
The series is presented in the reading order. The books have been translated in a broken publication sequence, hence the different release dates next to the titles. In brackets, you can find the original titles and their publication date in Norwegian.
- The Bat, 2012 (Flaggermusmannen, 1997)
- Cockroaches, 2013 (Kakerlakkene, 1998)
- The Redbreast, 2006 (Rødstrupe, 2000)
- Nemesis, 2008 (Sorgenfri, 2002)
- The Devil’s Star, 2005 (Marekors, 2003)
- The Redeemer, 2009 (Frelseren, 2005)
- The Snowman, 2010 (Snømannen, 2007)
- The Leopard, 2011 (Panserhjerte, 2009)
- Phantom, 2012 (Gjenferd, 2011)
- Police, 2013 (Politi, 2013)
- The Thirst, 2017 (Tørst, 2017)
- Knife, 2019 (Kniv, 2019)
Blood on Snow Series
Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder Series
- Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder, 2009
- Bubble in the Bathtub, 2011 aka Time-Travel Bath Bomb
- The End of the World. Maybe, 2012 aka Who Cut the Cheese?
- The Great Gold Robbery, 2013 aka The Magical Fruit
- Silent, But Deadly Night, 2017 aka Can Doctor Proctor Save Christmas?
Standalone Jo Nesbo Books
Who is Harry Hole?
Blue-eyed, tall, and slim, Harry Hole is a police officer with the Oslo Crime Squad. He is a modern detective with quite a few quirks and flaws. While he is a brilliant inspector, his means of solving the crimes are rather unconventional. He has a difficult family history. He is a smoker and also a recovering alcoholic who still finds the bottle when he needs it. In fact, many would say he is quite negative and self-destructive. In things love, he is not good boyfriend material, and in his daily life he is quite disorganized.
He is not an easy person to get along with, and this shows in his interactions with his superiors. Many consider him quite the complicated guy. Still, he is very respected for his accomplishments as a detective, and due to his undergoing special training in interrogation techniques and firearms at the FBI, he is extremely valuable to the team, especially when it comes to cased involving murdered people by serial killers.
Also, his colleagues know they can depend on them, as he doesn’t often let them down. In addition, he is like a hound after his prey. Once he catches the sent, he doesn’t let go until he’s found his man. And this is where his personal life often suffers, as well as his relationship with his peers. In the first books, his boss and friend, Bjarne Møller, has his back, however, later on, the two no longer get along anymore, as there is a lot of conflict between them.
Should we read the Jo Nesbo book in order for his Harry Hole Series?
Having read all the published books so far, my experience tells me that the books should be read in order of reading. Generally, the mysteries in the stories are independent of each other, however, later books do have spoilers of things happening in previous stories when it comes to the main characters. These past references might confuse newcomers to the series, and some people found that reading out of order spoiler their overarching enjoyment of the story.
Jo Nesbo Biography
Jo Nesbø (Jo is pronounced Yoo in Norwegian) was born in 1960, in Oslo, Norway. As a child, he was not only exposed to local Scandinavian authors, but also to international writers like Mark Twain, as his father grew up in New York.
Nesbo grew up in Molde, in Western Norway, and later he attended the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, from where he graduated with a degree in Economics and Business Administration. After school, he started working as a stockbroker, where his main goal was to become a singer and songwriter. In 1992, he helped co-found Di Derre, a music band. Before starting the Harry Hole books, he also worked as a football player with Norwegian premier league side Molde. He was still a teenager, at the age of 19, when he suffered an injury, which basically ended his budding career as a footballer.
Initially, he didn’t plan on becoming a published writer. In 1996 he was still touring the country with his band De Derre (Them There) when he decided to take a break from music. He took a 6-month break and went to Australia to write a book about traveling with the band. At the time, he was 36 years old and still had a day job as a stockbroker. When he came back, his book was born, but it was not about music but about a cop solving hard crimes. It would be the first in his Harry Hole series.
From the time he started the Harry Hole series, the author has been on a roll. In various interviews, he even mentioned that is he a born storyteller, regardless whether he is writing dark and gritty crime novels or fun children’s stories. He simply loves telling stories with all sorts of characters, many bad but also some good. He said in a Telegraph interview, “I come up with ideas and then work out whether they will fit for Harry Hole or Doctor Proctor. Then I provide the story with what it needs: suspense, humour, whatever.”
Over the years, some of the Jo Nesbo books have been adapted to the screen several times. The Snowman was adapted into a movie directed by Thomas Alfredson that featured Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as main characters. The movie premiered in 2017. Also, Headhunters, a standalone crime thriller was made into a same-titled movie in 2011, and it won a Bafta award.
In addition, the political thriller TV series Occupied was created based on a concept by the author. The production house was the same as the one working on the Headhunters movie and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
At some point he even wanted to direct a movie, however, when he got the chance, his created was not extremely successful, so he gave up on that idea. Thus, he is now sticking to writing books.
His contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare was with Macbeth, set in a reimagined contemporary Scottish city where drugs are rampant, and where murder and corrupt cops are the norm. The bestselling Nordic noir author was one of the best choices to create this tragic piece, as his own works are quite dark, full of crime, corrupt characters, and evil.
How many books has Jo Nesbo sold? Over the years, the author sold over 40 million copies of his book around the world, with his novels being translated into 50 languages. He is one of the most popular published Scandinavian authors, along with names like Stieg Larsson, Kurt Wallander, and Henning Mankell, among others.
For his books, Mr. Nesbo received several awards and nominations over the years, including
- The Bat – The Riverton Prize 1997 for Best Norwegian Crime Novel of the Year
- The Bat – The Glass Key Award 1998 for Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year
- The Redbreast – The Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for Best Novel of the Year 2000
- The Redbreast – Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written awarded by the Norwegian book clubs in 2004
- The Redbreast – Shortlisted for Duncan Lawrie International Dagger 2007
- Nemesis – The Mads Wiel Nygaard Bursary 2002
- Nemesis – Nominated for the Edgar Award 2010
- The Devil’s Star – The Finnish Academy of Crime Writers’ Special Commendation 2007 for Excellence in Foreign Crime Writing
- The Snowman – The Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for Best Novel of the Year 2007
- The Snowman – The Norwegian Book Club Prize 2008 for Best Novel of the Year
- Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder – Shortlisted for Ark’s Children’s Book Award for Best Children’s Book 2007
- Headhunters – Nominated for the Norwegian Bookseller’s Prize 2008
- Doctor Proctor’s Time Bathtub – Nominated for the Norwegian Bookseller’s Prize 2008
In 2013, he was also awarded the Norwegian Peer Gynt Prize.
Praise for Jo Nesbo
Knife‘, the 12th Harry Hole book, translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith, is arguably the best entry yet in the author’s outstanding series. … The moral conundrums in ‘Knife‘ are Dostoevskian, the surprises are breathtaking, the one-liners are amusing and the suspense is unrelenting. This is that rare lengthy book that one wouldn’t want shortened by even a single page. (The Wall Street Journal)
Stunning. Intense. Breathtaking. … he has written the perfect thriller. A plot thick with intense imagery and nail-biting terror, and a protagonist so broken, you can’t help but want him to win. (Suspense Magazine on Knife)
… is my new favorite thriller writer and Harry Hole is my new hero. (Michael Connelly)
He explores the darkest criminal minds with grim delight and puts his killers where you least expect to find them. . . . His novels are maddeningly addictive. (Vanity Fair)
Certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction. (WaPo Book World on The Redbreast)
“An elegant and complex thriller . . . Ingenious design. . . . Harrowingly beautiful scenes. (NYT Bookreview on Phantom)