Harry Hole Books in Order: How to read Jo Nesbo’s series?

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Harry Hole (pronounced as “HOO-leh”) is a police officer with the Oslo Crime Squad created by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. Like a lot of literary detectives, he is brilliant but uses unorthodox methods. Harry Hole is also an alcoholic and a smoker, and his family history is complicated. He is a complicated man and his relationship with his superiors is not always easy.

That said, he is a respected detective and he has undergone special training in interrogation techniques and firearms at the FBI, which makes him a real asset, especially with serial killer cases.

How to read the Harry Hole Series in Order?

Due to a weird publication order in English (not in Norway of course), it may be confusing to follow Harry Hole. So, this is the original order of the books:

  1. The Bat – Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three-year-old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home.
  2. Cockroaches – When the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand is found dead in a Bangkok brothel, Inspector Harry Hole is dispatched from Oslo to help hush up the case. But once he arrives Harry discovers that this case is about much more than one random murder.
  3. The Redbreast – Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins, he’s been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway’s dark past, when members of the government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany.
  1. Nemesis – After a drunken evening with former girlfriend Anna Bethsen, Police Detective Harry Hole wakes up at home with a headache, no cell phone, and no memory of the past twelve hours. The same day, Anna is found shot dead in her bedroom, making Hole a prime suspect in the investigation led by his hated adversary, Tom Waaler.
  2. The Devil’s Star – In the heat of a sweltering Oslo summer, a young woman is found murdered in her flat. Harry Hole is assigned to the case with Tom Waaler. When another woman is reported missing five days later, and her severed finger turns up adorned with a red star-shaped diamond ring, Harry fears a serial killer is at work.
  3. The Redeemer – Shots ring out at a Salvation Army Christmas concert in Oslo, leaving one of the singers dead in the street. The trail will lead Harry Hole, Oslo’s best investigator and worst civil servant, deep into the darkest corners of the city and, eventually, to Croatia.
  1. The Snowman – One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains: a pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day. The case deepens when a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished – all on the day of the first snow.
  2. The Leopard – Inspector Harry Hole has retreated to Hong Kong when two young women are found dead in Oslo, both drowned in their own blood. Media coverage quickly reaches a fever pitch. There are no clues, the police investigation is stalled, and Harry can’t be found. After he returns to Oslo, the killer strikes again.
  3. Phantom – When Harry Hole moved to Hong Kong, he thought he was escaping the traumas of his life in Oslo and his career as a detective for good. But now, the unthinkable has happened – Oleg, the boy he helped raise, has been arrested for killing a man. Harry can’t believe that Oleg is a murderer, so he returns to hunt down the real killer.
  1. Police – For years, Harry Hole has been at the center of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His brilliant insights and dedication to his job have saved countless lives over the years. But as the killer grows increasingly bold and the media reaction increasingly hysterical, the detective is nowhere to be found.
  2. The Thirst – The murder victim, a self-declared Tinder addict. The one solid clue leaves the investigating team baffled. Two days later, there’s a second murder: a woman of the same age, a Tinder user, an eerily similar scene. The chief of police knows there’s only one man for this case. But Harry Hole is no longer with the force.
  3. Knife – Harry Hole is been given a chance for a new start with the Oslo Police but it’s in the cold case office. But things will get worse. When Harry wakes up the morning after a blackout, drunken night with blood that’s clearly not his own on his hands, it’s only the very beginning of what will be a waking nightmare the likes of which even he could never have imagined.

  1. Killing Moon – Two young women are missing, their only connection a party they both attended, hosted by a notorious real-estate magnate. When one of the women is found murdered, the police discover an unusual signature left by the killer, giving them a reason to suspect he will strike again. The legendary Harry Hole is gone-fired from the force, drinking himself to oblivion in Los Angeles. It seems that nothing can entice him back to Oslo. Until the woman who saved Harry’s life is put in grave danger, and he has no choice but to return to the city that haunts him and track down the murderer.

If you like our article about the Harry Hole reading order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in our guides to the William Wisting series or the Joona Linna books for more Scandinavian crime stories.

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  1. I’ve listened to all the Harry Hole books on audible and am a huge fan. I listened to them out of order, starting with The Snowman…and honestly, that’s the one I’d recommend listening to first. The first book of the series, The Bat, is a decent book, but honestly I’m not sure if I would have continued with the series if I’d heard it first. I find some of the older books have more info about Harry in terms of his appearance, which personality, his family, The Bat really fails to include. That’s a reason I can enjoy it now, I KNOW who he is, it’s like getting an old story about it. Same thing with Coachroaches, I think it was my least fav in the series and would recommend it for later on. Again, knowing more about Harry from later books in the series will help you enjoy Coachroaches a bit more, imo, and you really don’t miss a ton about him if you skip it/hold it for later. I highly recommend The Redbreast, The Devil’s Star, and The Redeemer. Enjoy the world of Harry Hole!

    1. Omg I’m in love with Harry Hole ? I absolutely love every book Jo has written with Harry in I have now just received as a present “The Knife” ta ta until I’ve finished it Shirley x

  2. Thanks Kirsty. I also read The Redbreast 1st not sure why. It I always thought this was the 1st book. Was about to start Nemesis when I realised should be reading The Bat and Cockroaches. As I don’t have either of these books was wondering if I should start Nemesis. After reading your comments, think I’ll make a start on it. I have all others up to The Snowman, so hopefully all will be good in the end. If I find I should read the others maybe I’ll download onto my kindle for my holiday reads. Still enjoy a paper novel but my kindle is ideal for holidays.

    1. I got cockroaches to start the series, my library didn’t have The Bat, sounds like I’ll be alright starting the series there? I was just going to go for it but was afraid I would miss out on important information?

  3. I, too, read The Snowman first and I’m now reading the rest in order (about to start The Redeemer). That’s working well for me. Great series, albeit a trifle dark a times, and wonderful writing!

  4. Just finished The Thirst and was entralled. Like many HH fans I read The Snowman first and couldn’t put it down and then went to The Bat and have read them all in order. Not imperative as any of these thrillers can be read as stand alone. However the journey I’ve been on with Jo Nesbo has been the best reading experience ever….can’t wait to find out what comes next for HH after The Thirst.

  5. I read the series in order this year. Each new book has references to previous ones but they are not critical. I agree that the books get better, the further you get into the series.

  6. Originally, in America, the first three books were not available (hadn’t been translated) so everyone thought The Redbreast was the first novel and that is where I started and progressed through the books. At some point, as I was reading the series, the first three books were released and I went back and read them. I don’t know if it was because I was so far along in the series when they became available, but I didn’t find the first three books to be as good as the others.

  7. I was hooked after reading The SNOWMAN, and quickly read all of Harry Hole books from first to last. It was interesting to see Jo Nesbo’s skill developing after The Bat and Cockroaches, (which I thought were moderate, in comparison to every book which followed ).
    I’ve enjoyed all of Harry Hole’s exploits very very much.
    I must warn anyone planning to read Macbeth, that I couldn’t be bothered finishing it. It was a great disappointment, especially after all the hype.

  8. I översättningen till svenska har felaktiga svenska ord använts i sammanhanget (se avsnitt 3 och 4 ovan). Tack för information om läsordning. Kommer att läsa dem på engelska.

  9. I thought Harry Hole was killed off in “Phantom.” I am now reading “The Thirst” and Harry Hole is alive. What have I missed?

    1. I thought the same when I read Phantom, that Harry is killed. Nesbø describes multiple bullets hitting Harry, including his head, and that everything was dark, that he was free at last. What else is that supposed to mean??

  10. I read The Thirst First (do I get a rhyming award?) and then The Snowman. I have decided to read the rest of the Harry Hole books in order.
    They are all well-written, superbly plotted, and thrilling beyond belief!

  11. On a visit to Norway I started to read his books. I have read 4 of the Harry Hole books out of order, Nemisis, The Thirst, The Snowman and then The Leopard. It didn’t worry me about that I knew future facts about his developing personal life. Fantastic series.

  12. Before starting to read Jo Nesbo’s books, I googled the order, so started with The Bat. Being a massive Nordic Noir fan (loved Dragon Tattoo series and all Jussi Adler Olson/Henning Menkel books etc) I’m sadly feeling a bit flat and wondering why he is such a ‘star’ in this genre. Maybe things will get better? These reviews have helped me, as it seems that the book that hooked most was The Snowman so maybe I should just give up on this book. The dialogue seems so forced and trying so desperately to capture an Aboriginal twist that it just fails. Truly hating it, but know that there must be a reason that Jo Nesbø is so famous in this genre… I’ve avoided his books for this very reason actually.

  13. The Snowman and The Devil’s Star are two of the most gripping books of the series. I was literally hooked. I have read almost all of the books except Cockroaches, Phantom, and Knife. Apart from these two favorites, almost every part in this series has kept me addicted. Will recommend the books to everyone who loves mystery and thriller.

  14. I can’t stop reading the Harry Hole books. I was introduced to them by a friend last year. I have read them out of order but that doesn’t matter.
    thanks Jo for such great stories.

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