The Bat is the first installment in Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, and his very first novel, as indicated in the full list of his works on his Wikipedia page.
The novel begins with Hole, the protagonist, landing at the Sydney airport, weary and jetlagged. He is there in his capacity as a police officer from Norway who has been invited to assist the Sydney police in solving a murder of a Norwegian citizen that took place within the precincts of their jurisdiction.
The Bat is, on the whole, satisfyingly fast-paced, and can be easily read within a day or two if you give it enough time. Nesbø’s expression is excellent; there are many lines that convey intense emotion and thoughts, which turn these sentences into some very memorable quotes.
Setting a story in a different, possibly unfamiliar place can be quite a trap for a writer. But Nesbø has managed to illustrate the culture of Sydney, the main setting of The Bat, quite nicely. In fact, if any of you have been to London or lived there at some point, you will be able to recognise familiar names of streets and landmarks of London, which evidently have been transmitted to the Australian city.
Another fascinating aspect of the book is that the author has drawn quite heavily from the Aboriginal folklore and traditions of Australia, and incorporated these tales into his narrative. However, there is a slight problem with this – although this may be Nesbø’s own style – that one has absolutely no idea what is it with the constant storytelling. At first it seems that it is a way of initiating Hole into the local culture, but soon enough it becomes evident that the specific Aboriginal legends and folktales that other characters keep relating to Hole actually have substantial links to the murder case that he is helping the Sydney police to solve.
However, there are certain weak parts within the narrative that are merely a distraction from the main narrative. The flow is choppy; there is no clue within the story to inform the reader that a specific episode departing from the main plot is, in any way, connected with the overall narrative. The only aspect that somewhat redeems this incongruity is that most of these loose threads are tied up together at the end, and some of the perplexing questions are matched with their answers at the end. The above also affect Nesbø’s characterisation, which causes the reader to be quite confused about certain secondary characters.
Despite the weaknesses, I recommend The Bat because it is an exhilarating read. If you like the adrenalin rush that comes with finishing a book within two days, then The Bat is a must-read for you.