Nemesis/Sorgenfri is a psychological thriller by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. It is the fourth book in the English translation of Nesbø’s Harry Hole series which chronicles the cases and life of the Oslo, Norway detective. Nemesis main plot involves a string of heists pulled off by a particularly intelligent and cruel bank robber. The subplot continues Harry’s search for a drug lord and killer of his former colleague, and his current search to find the murderer of an old lover. As usual, Nemesis features Nesbø’s intriguing plot twists, poetic storytelling and keen psychological insight.
Taking its name from the Greek goddess, Nemesis shows what happens when justice, vengeance, and retaliation become all-consuming. The characters find themselves the targets of revenge, the initiators of it, or both, in a complex web of ultimate payback.
How far would the average person go to right the wrongs they feel have been done to them and their loved ones? How far would you go? These questions and more are put up for discussion in Nemesis and the answers aren’t quite what you’d expect.
In Nemesis familial ties are at the forefront, though it may not be clear to the characters themselves. The characters’ actions are in part motivated by the wish to be close to their family, whether this is family created by blood and DNA or a family forged by years of close relationship, and whether this closeness is physical or psychological. Nemesis illustrates the lengths people can go to keep together the pieces of what they believe to be their family and home base — or at least the image of it.
Good or Bad?…Neither
Jo Nesbø specializes in creating the most horrific criminals yet he has the rare gift of showing these criminals’ unmistakably human side. Nemesis shows this skill at its best — the “bad guys” in the novel are relatable and sympathetic; it’s not difficult to understand the motives behind the actions they take. Meanwhile, the darker sides of those who would otherwise be seen as the heroes and do-gooders of society are brought to light.
By the end of the novel one is left wondering who is really the bad guy and who is the good guy, and if good and bad truly exist or if they’re simply flawed man-made labels imposed on the indescribable. In Nemesis, as in life, the lines between good and evil aren’t so clear.