ⓘ The Devils Star is a crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, the fifth in the Harry Hole series. An English-translated version of the book named The Devils St ..

The Devils Star

ⓘ The Devils Star

The Devils Star is a crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, the fifth in the Harry Hole series. An English-translated version of the book named The Devils Star was translated by Don Bartlett.

The story moves between two parallel themes – the appearance of a new serial killer terrorizing Oslo, and Harry Holes ongoing feud with the corrupt and utterly ruthless fellow police officer Tom Waaler, which was already a major part of the plot of the two previous books, "The Redbreast" and "Nemesis". Eventually, the two issues converge – enabling Harry to resolve both in the course of a single cataclysmic night.


1. Plot introduction

A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star – a pentagram, the devils star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Hole is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devils star seems to be the key to solving the riddle.


2. Synopsis

Pursuing his suspicions during the Nemesis investigation, Inspector Harry Hole attempts to convince the Chief Inspector that his colleague, Tom Waaler, is a smuggling kingpin known as The Prince, who has been involved in smuggling weapons into Oslo as well as the murder of a number of witnesses, including Holes former partner Ellen Gjelten. Due to a lack of evidence, Hole is refused and goes on an alcoholic binge. His superior reluctantly sends termination of employment papers to the Chief Inspector, but Hole gets a short reprieve as the Chief is on holiday for three weeks and thus cannot sign them.

Meanwhile, a murder victim is discovered dead in her shower, shot in the head. Waaler is appointed to lead the investigation, but Hole and his former partner Beate Lonn are attached to Waalers team. Hole, investigating the murder scene, discovers a small, red, five-pointed diamond under the eyelid of the victim and that a finger is missing from her left hand. Another murder is presumed when the director of a theatre production of My Fair Lady, reports that his wife has gone missing. Her finger is later sent to Kripos; it has a ring on it with a small, red five-pointed diamond. A few days later a third victim is found, this time in the female toilets at a law firm, also on the floor and a five-pointed red diamond on the body. Yet again a finger has been removed.

Waaler – who has heard about Holes investigation of him – offers to include Hole in his illegal dealings, dangling the large financial benefits of his criminal activities as an inducement. In return, Hole has to perform an initiation task. Hole is initially confused as to why Waaler is effectively admitting his guilt, but is reminded that, as an alcoholic, Holes evidence would not be sufficient to convict him if he went to his superiors. Hole agrees to think about the offer. Meanwhile, a chance sighting of a pentagram brings Hole a flash of inspiration. The five-pointed diamonds found on the victims are in a similar shape – known as a Devils Star – and provide a major clue as to the next possible murder locations, which are kept under surveillance: one is in a student residence hall and the other is a house on the outskirts of the city, owned by Olaug Sivertsen.

While investigating this house, Lonn discovers that the likely murderer is Olaugs son, Sven. She informs Hole by phone as he and Waaler are checking out the other prospective crime scene. Hole gives this information to Waaler, who immediately leaves to assist Lonn. Hole, using recently installed CCTV cameras, notices another pentagram on a students door. Eventually, the body of the victim is found at the residence hall, and is determined to actually be the first victim of the serial killer, murdered five days before the first discovered victim. Meanwhile, Waaler apprehends Sven, but his threats to shoot him ultimately lead Lonn to realise that he intended to murder Sven instead of arresting him, leading her to agree with Holes suspicions.

Hole is given his task by Waaler: to kill Sven in custody using a poison capsule, as Waalers influence is such that he can guarantee that Hole will get away with the murder. Waalers argument for Svens murder is that he would get a lenient punishment from the Norwegian judicial system, and that death would be a worthy sentence for his crimes. Hole realizes however that Waalers desire to kill Sven is born out of a desire to eliminate a potentially dangerous witness to his role in the smuggling ring, and to this end he convinces Sven that he should trust him and not Waaler. He then breaks Sven out of custody with the intention of bringing Waaler to justice. Hole is now a hunted man, his future in the police - and quite possibly his life - depend on his being able to prove Waalers crimes.

Sven is willing to testify against Waaler, but he is adamant of his innocence of the murders, and consequently his testimony is wholly dependent on Hole exonerating him. Hole is faced with the daunting task of discovering the true murderer in a single day. However, a clue is provided by a seemingly irrelevant photograph which Sven shows Hole, and this combined with a very minute but precise piece of forensic evidence points to a completely unexpected perpetrator. Leaving Sven chained up, Hole encounters his new suspect in the immediate aftermath of his committing yet another murder. Hole comes very near to being killed himself, but eventually the killer commits suicide. Just as Hole believes that he is in the clear, Waaler calls to inform him that he has kidnapped his surrogate son Oleg and demands that he trade Sven for the boy.

Hole arranges a meeting at the residence hall. Using the CCTV cameras as a bargaining chip, Hole tries to convince Waaler that his position is hopeless. More and more outrageous stories are proposed by Waaler to explain how he intends to cover up what has happened, and when it becomes clear that Waaler will kill all three witnesses in the lift of the building, Hole enacts an escape plan and manages to overpower Waaler and rescue Sven and Oleg, with Waaler ultimately being killed in the ensuing scuffle. Having exposed Waaler and solved the case, Holes termination of employment is rescinded and he returns to the force.


3. 5

The special significance of the number 5 is cleverly woven into the story at various points by the author. Examples include:

  • Five fingers on a hand – each murder victim had one of their fingers severed starting with Marius Velands thumb and lastly Barbara Svendsens ring finger. Had the fifth murder been committed in the final event it would have presumably been the little finger of the left hand.
  • Each murder took place on the fifth floor of a building. However his body was moved by the murderer and kept hidden in the fifth floor. It should also be noted that Olaug Sivertsens home did not have five floors.
  • Barbara Svendsens body was found in balance, supported at five points: the two feet, the knees and the forehead.
  • There were five days between each murder.
  • This is the fifth book in the Harry Hole Series
  • Five oclock – all the murders took place at around 5 pm. In addition, journalist Roger Gjendem was told by Harry Hole to meet him at the Underwater pub at 5 pm.
  • Each murder victim had a small, five-pointed red diamond located on the body usually behind an eyelid when found.
  • On one occasion Harry Hole stood by a closed counter and saw a TV around the corner; the lottery was being drawn, and the only number he had heard before Waaler began talking to him was the number 5.
  • The number of murder victims was initially presumed to be five, although only four were actually completed with Olaug Sivertsen spared from the last murder. However, the murderer was apprehended before the presumed scheduled murder of Sivertsen and, since the murderer actually had a grudge against Sven Sivertsen Olaugs son it is unclear which of them was the intended victim.
  • The book consists of five parts.


4. Hot weather in Oslo

A persistent part of the books background - with some implications for its main plot line - is the hot weather from which Oslo suffers throughout the book. While Norway is well known as a cold country, and not without reason, the book makes clear that Oslo in July can be quite a hot place: anybody who can escapes to the seashore, women go around in bikinis also in the city itself, people sleep naked with little or no cover, groan at forecasts of "another tropical night" and pray for rain to break the heat wave. This is in marked contrast to the next book in the series, "The Redeemer" - a winter tale taking place in a snowbound Oslo, with subzero temperatures in the night streets, when for a hunted fugitive the obtaining of a coat is literally a matter of life and death.

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