If you enjoy anti-heroes and suspenseful mystery thrillers, you should absolutely read the Harry Hole books in order.
The creation of Jo Nesbø, Harry Hole is a captivating anti-hero. While his relationships suffer due to his alcohol addiction, his morals and work ethic make him an exemplary detective with the Oslo police force. The contrast and conflict has kept readers flipping through pages since the late 1990s to see how things will end for Harry.
Keep reading to find out more about the Harry Hole books in order and what’s to come.
Harry Hole Books in Order
If you read the Harry Hole books in order as the books were first translated, the below order may look a bit different to you. That’s because the English translations were published out of sequence from the original Norwegian publication order. Below is a list of the Harry Hole books in order as Jo Nesbø originally intended to tell Harry’s story.
While it is true that each novel contains its own criminal investigation and pursuit, reading the books out of order means that you will read spoilers for character development. Harry’s personal demons form a large part of the series. Therefore, it is important to read the Harry Hole books in order of original publication if you wish to have the best reading experience without any spoilers.
- The Bat (1997)
- Cockroaches (1998)
- The Redbreast (2000)
- Nemesis (2002)
- The Devil’s Star (2003)
- The Redeemer (2005)
- The Snowman (2007)
- The Leopard (2009)
- Phantom (2011)
- Police (2013)
- The Thirst (2017)
- Knife (2019)
- Killing Moon (Expected: May 30, 2023)
Will there be another Harry Hole book?
Ever since the third Harry Hole book, The Redbreast, Jo Nesbø has known how the series was going to end. He says Harry is like all of us; we fall apart. The only question is how fast.
In an interview with VG, a Norwegian tabloid newspaper, Nesbø admits that reaching that end has been slower than he first anticipated, with more books coming to fruition that he first thought. But, as of December 2021, Nesbø was planning to write a new Harry Hole book in Thailand, as per his usual writing schedule. With the dramatic conclusion to the last book, Knife, in 2019, the new book will open with Harry in a brand new locale trying to live a different life.
In that same interview with VG Nesbø plays coy at whether the thirteenth Harry Hole book will be the final installment in the series. While he has since said it won’t be the final book, he has previously said, and stands by, that we are nearing the end for Harry.
The thirteenth title in Norwegian is Blodmåne, which translates to Blood Moon, and was published on August 30th, 2022. The official title for the English is Killing Moon and is expected to release on May 30th, 2023.
So, with a new book forthcoming and the looming end to the series hanging in the air, now is as good a time as ever to make sure you are all caught up on the Harry Hole books in order.
Who is Harry Hole?
Author Jo Nesbø says that Harry Hole is impossible not to like. He is a special investigator with the Oslo police force and works within the crime squad apprehending all types of criminals in Norway and abroad.
But in addition to being the force’s best and most competent investigator, he is also described by his boss Bjarne Moller as the worst public servant. That’s because Harry is a loose cannon within the department. While he has high moral standards and a strong sense of justice, the method of his pursuits doesn’t always align with his superiors.
He is frequently at odds with his higher-ups because he is opposed to any type of authority. However, he is an undeniable asset to the department despite his drawbacks.
He worked with the FBI in Chicago on a one-year course specializing in serial killers. This training and his strong morals often led him in the right direction to track down and apprehend criminals.
But, as previously mentioned, Harry is also an alcoholic and his addiction often makes him a danger to those around him. This bleeds into his personal life too with his on-again-off-again relationship with Rakel. While Harry is the most competent detective with the Oslo Police, his workaholic tendencies make any relationship strenuous, which leads to frequent break-ups with Rakel.
About Jo Nesbø
The author of the popular award-winning Harry Hole books is Jo Nesbø. He is most well-known for this series, but has also published standalones, another series, and a children’s series. If you would like to learn more about the author and his other works, you can read this article about all the Jo Nesbø books in order.
Jo Nesbø is a Norwegian author that lives in Oslo, just like Harry. While Nesbø says he comes from a family of readers and storytellers, he lived a full life and career before writing his debut novel. His mother was a librarian and his father used to read every afternoon in the living room, but Nesbø’s first career aspiration as a teenager was to become a professional footballer for the Tottenham Hotspurs.
Unfortunately, a severe knee injury at 18 made him pivot his dreams. He served in the military for three years while simultaneously working his way through the high school syllabus to improve his grades. Following his military service he attended business school and became a financial analyst.
However, in tandem with his day job Nesbø performed at night as the lead vocalist in the band Di Derre. But consequently facing burnout, Nesbø took a leave of absence and flew to Australia to get as far away from Norway as he could. While a publisher asked him to write a book about touring with his band, what he ended up writing was the first Harry Hole novel: The Bat.
It was nearly decade later that Nesbø realized he was no longer seen as a musician who wrote books, but instead a writer who played in a band. Nesbø has found great success as an author with more than 50 million copies of his book in print in 50 languages.
Summary of Harry Hole Books in Order
Jo Nesbø’s most prolific series follows the main character, Harry Hole, in these epic thrillers that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Below is a brief summary of all the Harry Hole books in order.
However, if you have never read this series before, proceed with caution as the below summaries will contain spoilers for character development throughout the series. But if you’re looking to find out where you left off, or a brief summary of the series as a whole, keep reading.
1. The Bat
Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad travels to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home.
But never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives. He also befriends one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country.
As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe. Least of all those investigating the case.
When the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand is found dead in a Bangkok brothel, Inspector Harry Hole is dispatched from Oslo to help hush up the case.
But once he arrives Harry discovers that this case is about much more than one random murder. There is something else, something more pervasive, scrabbling around behind the scenes. Or, put another way, for every cockroach you see in your hotel room, there are hundreds behind the walls.
Surrounded by round-the-clock traffic noise, Harry wanders the streets of Bangkok. He passes go-go bars, temples, opium dens, and tourist traps, trying to piece together the story of the ambassador’s death. Even though no one asked him to, and no one wants him to — not even Harry himself.
3. The Redbreast
Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he’s been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole inadvertently winds up in a mystery with deep roots in Norway’s dark past. To a time when members of the nation’s government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany.
More than sixty years later, this black mark won’t wash away. Disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one.
Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind. For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole — and Norway’s darkest hour may still be to come.
Detective Harry Hole must use his maverick methods once again as he investigates a slew of brutal bank robberies and the suspicious suicide of a female artist.
Captured on closed-circuit television: A man walks into an Oslo bank, puts a gun to a cashier’s head, and tells her to count to twenty-five. When he doesn’t get his money fast enough, he pulls the trigger. The young woman dies — and two million Norwegian kroner disappear without a trace.
Elsewhere, after a drunken evening with former girlfriend Anna Bethsen, Police Detective Harry Hole wakes up at home. He has a headache, no cell phone, and no memory of the past twelve hours. The same day, Anna is found shot dead in her bedroom, making Hole a prime suspect in the investigation led by his hated adversary, Tom Waaler.
Meanwhile, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery. It sends rogue detective Hole from the streets of Oslo to steaming Brazil in a race to close two cases and clear his name. But Waaler isn’t finished with his long-time nemesis quite yet.
5. The Devil’s Star
In the heat of a sweltering Oslo summer, a young woman is found murdered in her flat. One of her fingers is cut off and a tiny red star-shaped diamond is found under her eyelid.
An off-the-rails alcoholic barely holding on to his job, Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with Tom Waaler. He is a hated colleague whom Harry believes is responsible for the murder of his partner. When another woman is reported missing five days later, and her severed finger turns up adorned with a red star-shaped diamond ring, Harry fears a serial killer is at work.
But Hole’s determination to capture a fiend and to expose Waaler’s crimes is leading him into shadowy places where both investigations merge in unexpected ways. He must make difficult decisions about a future he may not live to see.
6. The Redeemer
Christmas shoppers stop to hear a Salvation Army concert on a crowded Oslo street. A gunshot cuts through the music and the bitter cold. One of the singers falls dead, shot in the head at point-blank range.
Harry Hole is the Oslo Police Department’s best investigator and worst civil servant. But he has little to work with: No suspect, no weapon, and no motive. But Harry’s troubles will only multiply. As the search closes in, the killer becomes increasingly desperate, and Harry’s chase takes him to the most forbidden corners of the former Yugoslavia.
Yet it’s when he returns to Oslo that he encounters true darkness. Among the homeless junkies and Salvationists, eagerly awaiting a savior to deliver them from misery. Whether he brings new life or immediate death.
7. The Snowman
One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy named Jonas wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains. A pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day. Inspector Harry Hole suspects a link between the missing woman and a suspicious letter he’s received.
The case deepens when a pattern emerges. Over the past decade, eleven women have vanished — all on the day of the first snow. But this is a killer who makes his own rules…and he’ll break his pattern just to keep the game interesting, as he draws Harry ever closer into his twisted web.
8. The Leopard
Inspector Harry Hole has retreated to Hong Kong. He is escaping the trauma of his last case in squalid opium dens, when two young women turn up dead in Oslo. Both drowned in their own blood.
Media coverage quickly reaches a fever pitch. But there are no clues, the police investigation is at a standstill, and Harry — the one man who might be able to help — is nowhere near.
After he returns to Oslo, the killer strikes again. Harry’s instincts then take over, and nothing can keep him from the investigation. Even though there is little to go on.
Worse, he will soon come to understand that he is dealing with a psychopath. Harry will be put to the test, both professionally and personally, as never before.
When Harry Hole moved to Hong Kong, he thought he was escaping the traumas of his life in Oslo and his career as a detective for good. But now, the unthinkable has happened.
Oleg, the boy he helped raise, has been arrested for killing a man. Harry can’t believe that Oleg is a murderer, so he returns to hunt down the real killer.
Although he’s off the police force, he still has a case to solve. It will send him into the depths of the city’s drug culture, where a shockingly deadly new street drug is gaining popularity. This most personal of investigations will force Harry to confront his past and the wrenching truth about Oleg and himself.
For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the center of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His brilliant insights and dedication to his job have saved countless lives over the years.
But as a police killer grows increasingly bold and the media reaction increasingly hysterical, the detective isn’t there. This time, when those he loves and values most are facing terrible danger, Harry is in no position to protect anyone. Least of all himself.
11. The Thirst
The murder victim is a self-declared Tinder addict. The one solid clue — fragments of rust and paint in her wounds — leaves the investigating team baffled.
Two days later, there’s a second murder: A woman of the same age, a Tinder user, an eerily similar scene.
The chief of police knows there’s only one man for this case. But Harry Hole is no longer with the force. He promised the woman he loves, and he promised himself, that he’d never go back. Not after his last case, which put the people closest to him in grave danger.
But there’s something about these murders that catches his attention, something in the details that the investigators have missed. For Harry, it’s like hearing the voice of a man he was trying not to remember.
Now, despite his promises, despite everything he risks, Harry throws himself back into the hunt for a figure who haunts him. The monster who got away.
Harry Hole is not in a good place. For Rakel — the only woman he’s ever loved — has broken up with him, permanently.
He’s been given a chance for a new start with the Oslo Police, but it’s in the cold case office. What he really wants is to be investigating cases he suspects have ties to Svein Finne, the serial rapist and murderer who Harry helped put behind bars.
And now, Finne is free after a decade-plus in prison. Free and, Harry is certain, unreformed and ready to take up where he left off. But things will get worse.
Because then Harry wakes up the morning after a drunken night with blood that’s clearly not his on his hands. It’s only the very beginning of what will be a waking nightmare the likes of which even he could never have imagined.
13. Killing Moon
Harry Hole is back!
Harry has gone to Los Angeles to drink himself to death, in the wake of his life back in Oslo falling to pieces. He’s nearly managed to, but Harry has been helping an older film actress, Lucille, to get away from the grips of a drug cartel to which she owes one million dollars, and in return she’s given him shelter, company and a tailored suit.
In Oslo, two girls have disappeared and been found murdered and one of the suspects is a well-known real estate magnate. Katrine Bratt wants to bring in the country’s foremost serial killings expert, but the idea of collaborating with Harry Hole is out of the question for the chiefs of police.
The real-estate magnate under suspicion on the other hand wants to hire Harry as a private investigator to clear his name from the case. Harry declines, but that’s before the drug cartel takes Lucille hostage. If Harry achieves the task, the real estate magnate will award him a bonus enough to cover Lucille’s debt.
He puts together a team consisting of a cocaine-dealing childhood friend, a corrupt police officer and a cancer-stricken psychologist. The drug cartel has given them ten days. The clock is ticking, and a blood moon has been forecast over Oslo.
Final thoughts on Harry Hole books in order
Jo Nesbø is a master of mystery and suspense, and this is exemplified in his Harry Hole series. If you enjoy dark thrillers with an anti-hero main character, you should definitely read the Harry Hole books in order.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out this list of Stieg Larsson books in order.