The most famous series from the prolific Norwegian crime author Jo Nesbo, the Harry Hole books tell the story of the troubled titular detective and his biggest crime cases.
The books have proved enormously popular all around the world, thanks to the chilling mysteries and the complex character of Hole himself.
The author, Jo Nesbo, is one of the key names in crime fiction, with around 50 million of his books sold worldwide.
He is the most successful Norwegian author ever, and his books have been translated into more than 50 different languages.
His other series include the Olab Johansen books and the Doctor Proctor novels, but Harry Hole is the most well-known.
In fact, the Harry Hole series is so popular that it was made into a major film in 2017, “The Snowman”, which was adapted from the seventh novel.
It had an all-star cast, with Michael Fassbender playing Hole, and famous actors like Val Kilmer and Rebecca Ferguson providing supporting roles.
But what’s the best order to read the Harry Hole novels in?
In our handy guide below, we’ve got the complete reading order of all the Harry Hole books. Read on!
About Harry Hole
Harry Hole (pronounced “Hoo-leh”) is a classic fictional detective: brilliant, driven, and troubled.
He has a hard time getting on with his colleagues and sometimes may use unorthodox methods, but he’ll always be on the right path to catching the villain, thanks to his skills and mind.
Each novel typically has a few apparently-unconnected cases for Hole to solve, involving all kinds of villains, from killers to robbers.
However, the books deliver equal focus on Hole’s own personal troubles, with themes of mental health and other issues that he’s constantly battling.
Harry Hole Reading Order
The Bat (1997)
This is the first Harry Hole novel, which sees the Norwegian police officer being sent to Australia to solve the murder of a Norwegian girl there.
As the mystery to find the killer deepens, Hole becomes more troubled, and we learn about his past.
- You get to see the first appearance of Harry Hole
- Naturally, Nesbo hasn’t hit his stride writing the Hole books yet
Harry Hole is once again sent abroad to solve a murder case, this time involving the Norwegian ambassador, whose body has been found in Thailand.
Hole is supposed to solve the crime before it reaches the newspapers, but instead, he finds himself in a world of political tensions and secrets and sinks deeper into the mysteries and shadows of Thailand.
- The political intrigue is fascinating
- The plot jumps around a lot, making it sometimes hard to follow
The Redbreast (2000)
After embarrassing the police force, Hole is reassigned to dull surveillance jobs instead.
However, he finds himself thrown into a mystery when surveilling Norwegian neo-Nazis that are suspected of the killing of an elderly man.
Part of the book interestingly acts as a war novel, taking place during the Second World War, when Norway collaborated with the Nazis.
- The combination of crime novel and historical war novel is truly engaging
- There are so many characters that it can be difficult to keep track
Harry Hole is assigned to a bank robbery case where hostages sadly didn’t make it.
However, he also reconnects with an old girlfriend for a fun night but wakes up the next morning with no memory of their time together.
Hours later, the old girlfriend is found dead, and Hole thinks that it was murder. Hole must get to the bottom of both cases.
- The complex plot gracefully weaves two thrilling, different stories together
- Once again, there are countless characters to keep track of, which can be difficult
The Devil’s Star (2003)
When a young woman’s body is found in her Oslo flat, Harry Hole and Tom Waaler are assigned to the case.
Hole doesn’t get on with Waaler, who is corrupt and ruthless, and is a recurring character from previous books.
When a second body is found soon after, it’s believed that this is the case of another serial killer.
- It’s a great continuation of key parts and characters from the previous novel
- Some find the book to be overlong
The Redeemer (2005)
When a Salvation Army officer is killed in public during a Christmas street concert, Harry Hole is assigned to catch the assassin.
However, the assassin has a facial anomaly that allows him to change his face so significantly that people can’t recognize him – making this an especially difficult killer to catch.
- Nesbo has totally mastered suspense and tension by now, making this an exhilarating read
- Some feel that elements of the plot are out of character for the series
The Snowman (2007)
When a boy finds that his mother has disappeared on the first snowfall of the year, Harry Hole investigates.
Intriguingly, the only things left behind of hers are now dressed in a snowman in the boy’s yard.
This niche detail is nothing new, either, as Hole realizes there have been years of similar, snowman-related disappearances: this is the work of Norway’s earliest recorded serial killer.
- Once you read the book, you can see it brought to life in the film adaptation!
- Some readers have worked out the identity of the killer very early on!
The Leopard (2009)
After the events of the last book, a weary Harry Hole has exiled himself to Hong Kong.
However, crime is never far behind the detective, and he is soon contacted about some new killings back in Oslo.
Hole comes back home, just as the investigation ramps up and an MP’s body is found. Meanwhile, Hole also falls into an affair with the new officer that brought him back, Solness.
- Hole’s personal struggles are particularly engrossing in this entry, because of his ill father
- Some find the recurring themes of workplace rivalry and charming serial killers a bit repetitive so late into the series
Harry Hole has returned to Hong Kong, but it’s short-lived again.
In a deeply personal case, Hole is told that Oleg, a boy he helped raise as a father figure, has been arrested for the killing of his flatmate.
Hole can’t possibly believe that someone so close to him could do such a thing, so he comes back to Norway to find the real killer.
- The personal angle of the story once again makes Hole an incredibly compelling character
- Some find it unbelievable the number of injuries that Harry withstands during this book!
In this, the tenth Harry Hole novel, our favorite Norwegian detective is thrown right into the midst of a criminal cutting very close to home: a cop killer.
With this new murderer cleverly luring police into old crime scenes, then taking them out, Harry Hole needs to fight not only for his life but to solve the case.
- Despite being a long book, it keeps constant momentum – the definition of a page-turner!
- Some readers found there to be way too many red herrings in the mystery
The Thirst (2017)
When a woman is found dead after an internet date, the police find mysterious marks on her.
After another similar killing occurs, the police try to get Harry Hole to return for the case, but he’s extremely reluctant.
That is until he realizes that the marks of the killer may be connected to a failed case in his past.
- The element of online dating and Tinder in the book makes it particularly chilling and contemporary
- Some readers found it far too long and the ending protracted
Despite his reputation, Harry Hole has only been given small cases recently.
However, when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the night before – and somebody else’s blood on his hands – he finds himself thrust into something bigger.
- The twists and turns really keep you on the edge of your seat!
- Some find it overloaded with callbacks to previous books
In the latest book, Harry must save an elderly actress from a cartel. However, the book hasn’t been translated into English yet, so that’s all we’ll say!
The Harry Hole series is full of gripping mysteries showing the darkest underbellies of Norway. Readers can enjoy countless twists, galleries of shady characters, and the complex, troubled life of the main detective.
Jo Nesbo gets better with each book, delicately weaving his mysteries and dolling out gripping suspense. Every entry is packed with new cases to be solved – by both Harry Hole and you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Harry Hole Book Is Best?
Every Harry Hole fan will have a different answer, but The Redeemer tends to be a favorite among fans. With its shocking case, interesting religious symbolism, and an enormous amount of suspense, this sixth entry in the series is highly praised.
- Peter James’s Bestselling 19 Roy Grace Books In Order - June 2, 2023
- The 5 Best Novels About Alexander The Great - May 26, 2023
- 38 Amazing Literary Books To Get Lost In - May 26, 2023