Character Profile


Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels are complex, ambitious constructions where suspenseful and fast-paced crime plots reflect our globalized modern world. Although Oslo is the background for Nesbo’s stories, the nature of contemporary crime pitches Harry against challenges in such remote corners of the world as Australia and Thailand, which lend the novels a truly international feel. However the key to Jo Nesbo’s international success, at least in part, lies in his highly original, yet utterly believable protagonist, Detective Harry Hole. A cult figure already after the first book, Hole is a genuine anti-hero; an impossible character yet impossible not to like. According to his superiors, Harry is both the most competent detective of the Oslo Police and the worst civil servant. A periodic binge drinker seriously opposed to any type of authority, Hole roams the streets of Oslo like a lone ranger, doling out justice his way. At times suspended and generally considered a nuisance by his employers, Harry is nevertheless in some sense revered by his colleagues, for he is a good cop whose high moral standards and pronounced sense of justice often lead him in the right direction. In his personal life, however, his famous ‘inner compass’ seems to have broken down completely. Harry is tormented by the complicated relationship with Rakel, the single mother whom he fell in love with in The Redbreast and who has since walked into and out of his life at regular intervals due to Harry’s workaholic and alcoholic tendencies. He cannot let go of the woman who has proved to be the love of his life. And the feelings are mutual. Although Rakel has other relationships, she always returns to Harry; the two of them cannot seem to live without each other, nor with each other, though that is perhaps what they both desire. Harry has also developed a close relationship with Rakel’s son Oleg, for whom he has become a tough father figure. Like Harry’s little sister Sis, Oleg brings light to Harry’s existence, and life, at times in the series, really does seems to come together for Inspector Hole. But all too often, Jim Beam barges in and turns everything upside down.

In the eleven stories to date, the reader is taken along on a fantastic journey through the ever-expanding literary universe of this fascinating character. Like all truly important crime writers, Jo Nesbo combines refined, complex plotting, high voltage suspense and brilliant characterization with profound ethical discussions, often using updated biblical narratives to mirror contemporary society. Thus the crime novels of Jo Nesbo become challenging investigations into questions of betrayal, faith and revenge, while providing first-rate entertainment for the crime fiction lover.

Harry Hole’s Curriculum Vitae

Personal Details

Harry Hole is in his late thirties. Born in Oppsal, Oslo, he is unmarried, with one great passion and several smaller ones behind him. No children, but on occasion a kind of father to Oleg, Rakel”s son. Lives in Sofies gate in Bislet, Oslo.


Tall, athletic, lean. Blonde hair, machine-cropped. Stands up one centimetre from large, bumpy skull. Skin white, nose large, with a network of thin veins. Pupils are blue with that faded look long-term alcoholics get. Harry”s mouth is his best feature and what women tend to fall for.


Graduated from Police College and Law School, grades marginally above average. Special investigator for Crime Squad in Oslo. One-year course with FBI in Chicago, specialising in serial killers. Short stint with Politiets Overvakningstjeneste – POT/ Norwegian Secret Service – before returning to the Crime Squad.


Bjarne Moller, Head of Crime Squad and Harry Hole”s superior officer, describes Harry as the best investigator in the department and the worst public servant. By which he means Harry’s anti-authority, anti-sobriety, anti-rules-of-the-game attitude which makes him a danger to himself and those around him. Does his utmost to protect himself and his department. And Harry. Moller is Harry’s guardian angel, all that stands between him and dismissal.

Stig Aune, psychologist and police advisor. Has treated Harry for alcoholism and become a personal friend. The only one, except for Oystein.

Oystein Eikeland, taxi-driver and Harry’s sole childhood friend from Oppsal. Thinks Harry ought to have a more liberal attitude to amphetamines.

Rakel, the woman he loves. Single mother. She and Harry try to live with and without each other; neither works.

Sis, his younger sister. The person Harry loves most after Rakel. Down’s syndrome. Feels like a big sister.

Jim Beam, contains 4O% alcohol, a loyal friend since Harry’s early twenties.


Music: likes everything from Sex Pistols to Duke Ellington. From Neil Young to Slipknot.

Film: His all-time favorite is The Conversation by Coppola. One of very few who consider Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers a masterpiece and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart complete rubbish.

Substance abuse: Alcoholism runs in the family. Started drinking heavily in his late teens, has tried most types of drugs. Views all drugs as anesthetics. Dry and sober most of the time, but with a furious and constant urge.

Sports: Cycling and pumping iron occasionally, cause he likes the purifying feeling pain gives him.

Ambitions and future plans

Ambition: To understand what evil is. And what love is.

Future plans: The near future looks dismal. After that it gets darker. And then it all goes to hell…


Listen to extracts from all the novels in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series