The effect on Harry is brutal. As the book opens, he has descended into an alcoholic haze and has alienated virtually everyone around him, including his lover and his most ardent defender on the police force. He is constantly drunk, barely able to function and only days away from losing his job.
Harry hits rock bottom in the middle of a sweltering summer in Oslo, when many of the other detectives are on holiday attempting to escape the heat. Then a woman if found ritually murdered in her apartment and, short-handed, Harry's boss has no choice other than to assign Harry to the case, even though Harry is clearly impaired. To make matters worse, Harry is assigned to work the case in tandem with another detective whom he hates.
Harry assumes that this is the last case he will ever work and so pulls himself together, at least enough to make an effort. Five days after the initial murder, a second woman goes missing and seems clearly to be the victim of the same killer. What follows is an intellectual duel between Harry and a very clever adversary. Clearly there is a method to the killer's madness; the only question is whether Harry can figure it out in time to save other potential victims.
This is a very tense and gripping story. The case itself is fascinating, and even more interesting is the psychological drama that plays out as Harry battles to control his own demons and to set right injustices that have occurred outside the boundaries of the case he is investigating at the moment. In Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo has created one of the most intriguing characters to come along in crime fiction in quite some time, and it's a pleasure to watch both Nesbo and Harry work their magic.