Barry Forshaw reviews Jo Nesbo’s Cockroaches in The Independent
Harry Hole arrives in Bangkok after the Norwegian ambassador (a close friend of the Prime Minister) is murdered in a down-market motel, but it seems that the dead man’s family has secrets they wish to keep. Harry (whose job is to fend off scandal during the investigation) lays his hands on some incendiary CCTV footage. Needless to say, a can of worms soon splits open, and when another diplomat is knifed in an Asian brothel, Harry realises that keeping a lid on things will be a tough job.
The Bat channelled culture shock tactics with its fish-out-of-water Norwegian sleuth in Australia, and Cockroaches employs similar tactics with a far more rigorous attention to plotting than in the earlier book. The complex narrative and large dramatis personae are handled with steely authority, but what really makes the novel work is the fact that the picturesque seediness of Bangkok and Thailand turn out to be Harry Hole’s natural element, with Nesbo plumping his hero down in a very non-Norwegian setting.