Book Review: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

I was excited to pick up this book given Nesbo’s reputation for dark, gritty narratives. The premise of a serial killer who targets Tinder dates seemed intriguing and relevant to our technology-driven times. However, while there were some strong points, overall I found The Thirst to be a disappointing read that didn’t live up to the potential of its creepy setup.

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

TitleThe Thirst
AuthorJo Nesbo
GenreCrime, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publication DateMay 9, 2017
Length480 pages

Where to Purchase

The Plot Falls Short

The basic plot follows Oslo police detective Harry Hole as he investigates a string of grisly murders perpetrated against women the killer has met through Tinder. I liked the commentary on modern dating apps and social media, which provided an original backdrop for the crimes. However, the storyline itself felt thin and repetitive. The murders, while certainly gruesome, lacked narrative weight and significance. I wanted to see deeper themes, character development, and worldbuilding beyond just the takedown of another serial killer. But the broader insights and nuance never materialized.

Disjointed Pacing and Confusing Perspectives

One of the biggest issues with The Thirst was its disjointed pacing and unclear narrative perspective. The timeline jumped around frequently, and it often took me several paragraphs to situate myself in place and time. The large cast of secondary characters who alternated as POV characters also became confusing. Besides Harry Hole, the voices and perspectives blended together without distinct personalities. I wished Nesbo had stuck to a tighter third person limited narration just following Hole. The tension and suspense was diluted across too many ambiguous characters and chronology.

Harry Hole Falls Flat as Lead Protagonist

My biggest complaint about The Thirst was Harry Hole himself, who simply did not deliver as a compelling lead protagonist. As a veteran detective with a personal history of alcoholism and tragedy, he had potential to be layered and flawed. But throughout this book, Hole came across as flat and reactive. I didn’t get much insight into his inner turmoil or personal stakes beyond solving the case. The secondary characters, including Hole’s lover Rakel and co-worker Katrine, were far more interesting and dynamic. Hole lacked the intrigue, magnetism, and depth of personality that a strong detective protagonist needs to drive the plot.

Some Visceral Horror Elements

One area where I think Nesbo succeeded was in crafting some truly horrific and visceral murder scenes. It is certainly not for the squeamish! I did feel a sense of dread and revulsion as the killer enacted his bloody rituals. If you love creepy, skin-crawling horror, these moments will satisfy. Personally, I preferred the sections focused on the detective work and chase. But horror fans will surely appreciate Nesbo’s willingness to indulge in graphic violence.

In Sum: Great Premise Wasted

To summarize, while I found the premise behind The Thirst intriguing, the execution fell short for me. The social media-driven murders offered an ominous, modern hook. But the plot and characters failed to fully capitalize, with too many disconnected threads and perspectives. Harry Hole was the biggest disappointment, lacking the charisma and depth to carry the story as its hero. While the gruesome killings provided some chilling moments, The Thirst ultimately felt like a missed chance to develop a truly gripping and thoughtful crime novel. I may give the earlier books in the series a try, but this one just didn’t leave me thirsty for more of Harry Hole and his world.


  • Paula Davis

    Paula Davis is a dedicated and seasoned content writer for Dreaming and Reading, where she brings her extensive knowledge and passion for literature to a wide audience of fellow book enthusiasts. With the heart of a true bookworm, Paula has immersed herself in the literary world, devouring approximately 50 books annually for the last 15 years. This impressive reading habit has not only provided her with immense joy but has also significantly honed her expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the realm of book reviews. Her insightful and well-crafted reviews reflect her deep understanding and appreciation of various genres, offering valuable guidance to readers in search of their next great read. With a finger always on the pulse of the latest literary releases, Paula Davis is a trusted voice and a go-to source for book recommendations and reviews.

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