Series: Harry Hole #2
Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on February 11, 2014
Narrator: John Lee
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes
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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. There is something else, something more pervasive, scrabbling around behind the scenes. Or, put another way, for every cockroach you see in your hotel room, there are hundreds behind the walls. Surrounded by round-the-clock traffic noise, Harry wanders the streets of Bangkok lined with go-go bars, temples, opium dens, and tourist traps, trying to piece together the story of the ambassador’s death even though no one asked him to, and no one wants him to—not even Harry himself.
I loved The Bat by Jo Nesbo so I was excited to read Cockroaches. Cockroaches is the second book in the Harry Hole series, but I’ve seen many people say to skip directly to the third book because the first two aren’t as good as the rest of them. I genuinely hate skipping books in a series and find that missing out on character progression just isn’t for me, so I began my relationship with Harry with the first book.
In Cockroaches, a body is found in a brothel in Thailand and the deceased it determined to be the The Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand. Harry is sent from Oslo to Thailand to figure out why on earth the Ambassador was at a brothel to begin with and to handle the case (hopefully) quietly. As Harry digs for clues, he finds that the Ambassador had ties to illegal activity, including involvement in the sex industry. So naturally Harry sets out to find the truth at all costs.
Harry was sent to Thailand because of his prior behaviors as a detective, and also I think the Norwegian department where he works is just looking for a way to get rid of him for a while. Harry has major issues with alcohol and this, along with his dark past, makes him a real pain to work with even though his detective skills are fantastic. Thailand is the perfect place for him to indulge his demons and his attraction to violence where it concerns cracking the case: it’s far enough away from Norway that he isn’t being constantly monitored by his peers and also this part of Thailand seems to give off a vibe that just about anything goes.
Look, I didn’t enjoy Cockroaches as much as The Bat. It breaks my heart to say this because I love Harry so much. If I’m being honest, I’ve (sadly) had low expectations for these first two books in the series because of what so many of the reviews say about them. Despite not really loving the story, I did like some of the characters in this one and there were plenty of surprises for me. But I just found myself unable to read and digest this one as easily as The Bat. Maybe this is because the plot meandered all over the place or perhaps it is because I had a hard time with the large cast and the setting. Either way-
I still love Harry to pieces. I say it all the time: I’m so attracted to the detective stories where the detective is flawed or broken and lets his private life mix with his work. Harry does this exactly; he tends to blur the lines and to act in ways that aren’t always okay or legal. I’m always excited to see how he’ll untangle himself from trouble when it happens. I have high hopes that he’ll be able to work through his demons as I move along through the books. I just want Harry to be happy and healthy. But I have loved the progression of his story so far.
I doubt that I’ll ever reread this one. With The Bat, I didn’t completely understand why reviews kept saying to skip it — I thought the story was good. With Cockroaches, I absolutely understand it. It felt like it took forever to get invested in this case and, honestly, outside of wanting to know more about Harry himself, I’m not sure that I ever was. I’ll continue the series with The Redbreast and I’m excited to see what successes and messes Harry has in future installments.
I knew that I’d listen to Cockroaches on audiobook after loving John Lee’s narration when I listened to The Bat. John Lee is so great at being able to pronounce words that I just don’t know how to pronounce and I always love listening to him narrate books. Even so, I sped this one up so I would finish sooner.
I do plan to keep pairing the audiobooks with the print copies as I move through this series although I’m sad to see that the narrator is different for the next few books.