The Thirst

A Harry Hole Novel (11)

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#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER * In this electrifying thriller from the author of Police and The Snowman, Inspector Harry Hole hunts down a serial murderer who targets his victims–on Tinder.

The murder victim, a self-declared Tinder addict. The one solid clue–fragments of rust and paint in her wounds–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. He promised the woman he loves, and he promised himself, that he’d never go back: not after his last case, which put the people closest to him in grave danger.

But there’s something about these murders that catches his attention, something in the details that the investigators have missed. For Harry, it’s like hearing “the voice of a man he was trying not to remember.” Now, despite his promises, despite everything he risks, Harry throws himself back into the hunt for a figure who haunts him, the monster who got away.

Don’t miss Jo Nesbo’s new thriller, Killing Moon, coming soon!



He stared into the white nothingness.

The way he had done for almost three years.

No one saw him, and he saw no one. Apart from each time the door opened and enough steam was sucked out for him to be able to glimpse a naked man for a brief moment before the door closed and everything was shrouded in fog.

The baths would be closing soon. He was alone.

He wrapped the white towelling bathrobe more tightly around him, got up from the wooden bench and walked out, past the empty swimming pool and into the changing room.

No trickling showers, no conversations in Turkish, no bare feet padding across the tiled floor. He looked at himself in the mirror. Ran a finger along the scar that was still visible after the last operation. It had taken him time to get used to his new face. His finger carried on down his throat, across his chest, and came to a halt at the start of the tattoo.

He removed the padlock from his locker, pulled on his trousers and put his coat on over the still damp bathrobe. Tied his shoelaces. He made sure he was definitely alone before going over to a locker with a coded padlock, one with a splash of blue paint on it. He turned the lock until it read 0999. Removed the lock and opened the door. Took a moment to admire the big, beautiful revolver that lay inside before taking hold of the red hilt and putting it in his coat pocket. Then he removed the envelope and opened it. A key. An address, and some more detailed information.

There was one more thing in the locker.

Painted black, made of iron.

He held it up against the light with one hand, looking at the wrought ironwork with fascination.

He would have to clean it, scrub it, but he already felt aroused at the thought of using it.

Three years. Three years in a white nothingness, in a desert of empty days.

Now it was time. Time he drank from the well of life again.

Time he returned.

Harry woke with a start. Stared out at the semi-darkness of the bedroom. It was him again, he was back, he was here.

“Nightmare, darling?” The whispered voice by his side was warm and soothing.

He turned towards her. Her brown eyes studied his. And the apparition faded and disappeared.

“I’m here,” Rakel said.

“And here I am,” he said.

“Who was it this time?”

“No one,” he lied, and touched her cheek. “Go back to sleep.”

Harry closed his eyes. Waited until he was sure she had closed hers before opening his again. He studied her face. He had seen him in a forest this time. Moorland, wreathed in white fog that swirled around them. He had raised his hand and pointed something towards Harry. He could just make out the demonic, tattooed face on his naked chest. Then the fog had grown thicker, and he was gone. Gone again.

“And here I am,” Harry Hole whispered.

Part I


Wednesday evening

The Jealousy Bar was almost empty, but even so it was hard to breathe.

Mehmet Kalak looked at the man and woman standing at the bar as he poured wine into their glasses. Four customers. The third was a guy sitting on his own at a table, taking tiny little sips of beer, and the fourth was just a pair of cowboy boots sticking out from one of the booths, where the darkness occasionally gave way to the glow from the screen of a phone. Four customers at half past eleven on a September evening in the best bar district in Grünerløkka. Terrible, and it couldn’t go on like this. Sometimes he asked himself why he’d left his job as bar manager at the hippest hotel in the city to go it alone and take over this rundown bar with its pissed-up clientele. Possibly because he thought that by jacking up the prices he could replace the old customers with the ones everyone wanted: the neighbourhood’s affluent, trouble-free young adults. Possibly because he needed somewhere to work himself to death after breaking up with his girlfriend. Possibly because the offer from loan shark Danial Banks had looked favourable after the bank rejected his application. Or possibly just because at the Jealousy Bar he was the one who picked the music, not some damn hotel manager who only knew one tune: the ringing of the cash register. Getting rid of the old clientele had been easy—they had long since settled in at a cheap bar three blocks away. But it turned out to be a whole lot harder to attract new customers. Maybe he would have to reconsider the whole concept. Maybe one big television screen on which he showed Turkish football wasn’t enough to merit the description “sports bar.” And maybe he’d have to change the music and go for reliable classics like U2 and Springsteen for the guys, Coldplay for the girls.

“Well, I haven’t been on that many Tinder dates,” Geir said, putting his glass of white wine back down on the bar. “But I’ve worked out that there’s a lot of strange people out there.”

“Have you?” the woman said, stifling a yawn. She had short fair hair. Slim. Mid-thirties, Mehmet thought. Quick, slightly stressed movements. Tired eyes. Works too hard and goes to the gym in the hope that it will give her the advantage she’s never had. Mehmet watched Geir raise his glass with three fingers round the stem, the same way as the woman. On his countless Tinder hook-ups he had always ordered the same thing as his dates, regardless of whether it was whiskey or green tea. Keen to signal that they were a match on that point too.

Geir coughed. Six minutes had passed since she had walked into the bar, and Mehmet knew that this was when he would make his move.

“You’re more beautiful than your profile picture, Elise,” Geir said.

“So you said, but thanks again.”

Mehmet polished a glass and pretended not to listen.

“So tell me, Elise, what do you want from life?”

She gave a rather resigned little smile. “A man who doesn’t just judge by appearances.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Elise, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“That was a joke. I look better in my profile picture, and, to be honest, so do you, Geir.”

“Ha ha,” Geir said, and stared down into his wine glass, slightly deflated. “I suppose most people pick a flattering picture. So you’re looking for a man. What sort of man?”

“One who’d like to stay at home with three kids.” She glanced at the time.

“Ha ha.” Sweat hadn’t just broken out on Geir’s forehead, but all over his large, close-shaven head. And soon rings of sweat would appear under the arms of his black slim-fit shirt, an odd choice given that Geir was neither slim nor fit. He toyed with his glass. “That’s exactly my kind of humour, Elise. A dog is family enough for me for the time being. Do you like animals?”

Tanrim, Mehmet thought. Why doesn’t he just give up?

“If I meet the right person, I can feel it, here…and here.” He grinned, lowered his voice and pointed towards his crotch. “But obviously you have to find out if that’s right. What do you say, Elise?”

Mehmet shuddered. Geir had gone all-in, and his self-esteem was about to take another beating.

The woman pushed her wine glass aside, leaned forward slightly, and Mehmet had to strain to hear. “Can you promise me something, Geir?”

“Of course.” His voice and the look in his eyes were as eager as a dog’s.

“That when I walk out of here in a moment, you’ll never try to contact me again?”

Mehmet had to admire Geir for managing to summon up a smile. “Of course.”

The woman leaned back again. “It’s not that you seem like a stalker, Geir, but I’ve had a couple of bad experiences. One guy started following me. He threatened the people I was with as well. I hope you can understand my being a bit cautious.”

“I understand.” Geir raised his glass and emptied it. “Like I said, there’s a lot of strange people out there. But don’t worry, you’re pretty safe. Statistically speaking, the chances of getting murdered are four times greater for a man than a woman.”

“Thanks for the wine, Geir.”

“If one of the three of us—”

Mehmet hurried to look away when Geir pointed to him.

“—was going to get murdered tonight, the likelihood of it being you is one in eight. No, hang on, you have to divide that by…”

She stood up. “I hope you figure it out. Have a good life.”

Geir stared at her wine glass for a while after she left, nodded in time to “Fix You,” as if to convince Mehmet and anyone else watching that he had already shaken the experience off, she had been nothing more than a three-minute-long pop song, and just as forgettable. Then he stood up and left. Mehmet looked round. The cowboy boots and the guy who had been dragging out his beer were both gone too. He was alone. And the oxygen was back. He used his mobile phone to change the playlist. To his playlist. Bad Company. Given that the group contained members of Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson, there was no way it was ever going to be bad. And with Paul Rodgers on vocals, there was no way it could fail. Mehmet turned the volume up until the glasses behind the bar started to rattle against each other.

Elise walked down Thorvald Meyers gate, past plain four-storey buildings that had once housed the working classes in a poor part of a poor city, but where one square metre now cost as much as in London or Stockholm. September in Oslo. The darkness was back at last, and the drawn-out, annoyingly light summer nights were long gone, with all the hysterical, cheerful, stupid self-expression of summer. In September Oslo reverted to its true self: melancholic, reserved, efficient. A solid facade, but not without its dark corners and secrets. Much like her, apparently. She quickened her pace; there was rain in the air, mist, the spray when God sneezed, as one of her dates had put it in an attempt to be poetic. She was going to give up Tinder. Tomorrow. Enough was enough. Enough randy men whose way of looking at her made her feel like a whore when she met them in bars. Enough crazy psychopaths and stalkers who stuck like mud, sucking time, energy and security from her. Enough pathetic losers who made her feel like she was one of them.

They said Internet dating was the cool way to meet new people, that it was nothing to be ashamed of anymore, that everyone was doing it. But that wasn’t true. People met each other at work, in classrooms, through friends, at the gym, in cafes, on planes, buses, trains. They met each other the way they were supposed to meet each other, when they were relaxed, no pressure, and afterwards they could cling to the romantic illusion of innocence, purity and quirks of fate. She wanted that illusion. She was going to delete her profile. She’d told herself that before, but this time it was definitely going to happen, that very night.

She crossed Sofienberggata and fished out the key to unlock the gate next to the greengrocer’s. She pushed the gate open and stepped into the darkness of the archway. And stopped dead.

There were two of them.

It took a moment or two for her eyes to get used to the darkness, and for her to see what they were holding in their hands. Both men had undone their trousers and had their cocks out.

She jerked back. Didn’t look round, just prayed that there was no one standing behind her.

“Fucksorry.” The combination of oath and apology was uttered by a young voice. Nineteen, twenty, Elise guessed. Not sober.

“Duh,” the other one said, “you’re pissing all over my shoes!”

“I was startled!”

Elise pulled her coat more tightly around her and walked past the young men, who had turned back to face the wall again. “This isn’t a public toilet,” she said.

“Sorry, we were desperate. It won’t happen again.”

Geir hurried over Schleppegrells gate. Thinking hard. It was wrong that two men and one woman gave the woman a one in eight chance of being murdered, the calculation was much more complicated than that. Everything was always much more complicated.

He had just passed Romsdalsgata when something made him turn round. There was a man walking fifty metres behind him. He wasn’t sure, but wasn’t it the same guy who had been standing on the other side of the street looking at a window display when Geir emerged from the Jealousy Bar? Geir sped up, heading east, towards Dælenenga and the chocolate factory; there was no one out on the streets here, just a bus which was evidently running ahead of schedule and was waiting at a bus stop. Geir glanced back. The man was still there, still the same distance. Geir was frightened of dark-skinned people, always had been, but he couldn’t see this guy properly. They were on their way out of the white, gentrified neighbourhood, heading towards an area with far more social housing and immigrants. Geir could see the door of his own apartment block one hundred metres away. But when he looked back he saw that the guy had started running, and the thought that he had a Somali, thoroughly traumatised from Mogadishu, on his heels made him break into a run. Geir hadn’t run for years, and each time his heels hit the tarmac a jolt ran through his brain and jogged his sight. He reached the door, got the key in the lock at the first attempt, threw himself inside and slammed the heavy wooden door behind him. He leaned against the damp wood and stared out through the glass in the top part of the door. He couldn’t see anyone out in the street. Perhaps it wasn’t a Somali. Geir couldn’t help laughing. It was ridiculous how jumpy you got just because you’d been talking about murder. And what had Elise said about that stalker?

Geir was still out of breath when he unlocked the door to his flat. He got a beer from the fridge, noticed that the kitchen window facing the street was open, and closed it. Then he went into the study and switched the lamp on.

He pressed one of the keys of the PC in front of him, and the twenty-inch screen lit up.

He typed in “Pornhub,” then “french’ in the search box. He looked through the thumbnails until he found a woman who at least had the same hairstyle and colouring as Elise. The walls of the flat were thin, so he plugged his headphones into the PC before double-clicking the picture, undoing his trousers and pushing them down his thighs. The woman actually resembled Elise so little that Geir shut his eyes instead and concentrated on her groaning while he tried to conjure up the image of Elise’s small, tight little mouth, the scornful look in her eyes, her sober but still sexy blouse. There was no way he could ever have had her. Never. Except this way.

Geir stopped. Opened his eyes. Let go of his cock as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up in the cold breeze from behind. From the door he knew he had closed properly. He raised his hand to pull off the headphones, but knew it was already too late.

Elise put the security chain on the door, kicked her shoes off in the hallway and, as always, ran her hand over the photograph of herself and her niece Ingvild that was stuck to one side of the mirror. It was a ritual she didn’t quite understand, except that it clearly fulfilled some deep-rooted human need, the same way as stories about what happens to us after death. She went into the living room and lay down on the sofa in her small but cosy two-room flat; at least she owned it. She checked her phone. One text from work—tomorrow morning’s meeting had been cancelled. She hadn’t told the guy she had met this evening that she worked as a lawyer, specialising in rape cases. And that his statistics about men being more likely to be murdered only told half the story. In sexually motivated murders, the victim was four times more likely to be a woman. That was one of the reasons why the first thing she did when she bought the flat was change the locks and have a security chain fitted, a rare concept in Norway, and one she still fumbled with every time she used it. She went onto Tinder. She had matched with three of the men she had right-swiped earlier that evening. Oh, this was what was so nice about it. Not meeting them, but knowing that they were out there, and that they wanted her. Should she allow herself one last flirtation by message, one last virtual threesome with her last two strangers before deleting her account and the app for good?

No. Delete it at once.

She went into the menu, clicked the relevant option and was asked if she was really sure she wanted to delete her account?

Elise looked at her index finger. It was trembling. God, had she become addicted? Addicted to being told that someone—someone who had no real idea of who she was or what she was like, but still someone—wanted her, just the way she was? Well, the way she was in her profile picture, anyway. Completely addicted, or only a bit? Presumably she’d find out if she just deleted her account and promised to go a month without Tinder. One month, and if she couldn’t manage that, then there was something seriously wrong with her. The trembling finger moved closer to the delete button. But, if she was addicted, was that such a bad thing? We all need to feel that we’ve got someone, that someone’s got us. She had read that babies could die if they didn’t get a minimum of skin-to-skin contact. She doubted that was true, but, on the other hand, what was the point of living if it was just her, doing a job that was eating her up and with friends she socialised with mostly out of a sense of duty, if she was honest, because her fear of loneliness worried her more than their tedious moaning about their children and husbands, or the absence of one or other of these? And perhaps the right man for her was on Tinder right now? So, OK, one last go. The first picture popped up and she swiped left. Onto the scrapheap, to I-don’t-want-you. Same thing with the second one. And the third.

Her mind started to wander. She had attended a lecture where a psychologist who had been in close contact with some of the worst criminals in the country had said that men killed for sex, money and power, and women as a result of jealousy and fear.

She stopped swiping left. There was something vaguely familiar about the thin face in the picture, even though it was dark and slightly out of focus. That had happened before, seeing as Tinder matched people who were geographically close to each other. And, according to Tinder, this man was less than a kilometre away, so for all she knew he could be in the same block. The fact that the picture was out of focus meant that he hadn’t studied the online advice about Tinder tactics, and that in itself was a plus. The message was a very basic “hi.” No attempt to stand out. It may not have been particularly imaginative, but it did at least display a certain confidence. Yes, she would definitely have been pleased if a man came up to her at a party and just said “hi” with a calm, steady gaze that said “Shall we take this any further?”. She swiped right. To I’m-curious-about-you.

And heard the happy bleep from her iPhone that told her she had another match.

Geir was breathing hard through his nose.

He pulled his trousers up and slowly spun his chair round.

The light from the computer screen was the only one in the room, and illuminated just the torso and hands of the person who was standing behind him. He couldn’t see a face, just the white hands holding something out towards him. A black leather strap. With a loop at one end.

The figure took a step closer and Geir pulled back automatically.

“Do you know what the only thing I find more disgusting than you is?” the voice whispered in the darkness as the hands pulled at the leather strap.

Geir swallowed.

“The dog,” the voice said. “That bloody dog, which you promised you’d do everything to look after. Which shits on the kitchen floor because no one can be bothered to take it outside.”

Geir coughed. “Kari, please…”

“Take it out. And don’t touch me when you come to bed.”

Geir took the dog leash, and the door slammed behind her.

He was left sitting in the darkness, blinking.

Nine, he thought. Two men and one woman, one murder. The chances of the woman being the murder victim is one in nine, not one in eight.

Mehmet drove the old BMW out of the streets of the city centre, up towards Kjelsås, towards the villas, fjord views and fresher air. He turned into his silent, sleeping street. Discovered that there was a black Audi R8 parked in front of the garage by the house. Mehmet slowed down. Briefly considered accelerating and just driving on. He knew that would only be putting it off. On the other hand, that was exactly what he needed. A delay. But Banks would find him again, and perhaps now was the right time. It was dark and quiet, no witnesses. Mehmet pulled up by the pavement. Opened the glove compartment. Looked at what he had been keeping in there for the past few days, specifically in case this situation arose. Mehmet put it in his jacket pocket and took a deep breath. Then he got out of the car and started to walk towards the house.

The door of the Audi opened and Danial Banks got out. When Mehmet had met him at the Pearl of India restaurant, he knew that the Pakistani first name and English surname were probably just as fake as the signature on the dubious contract they had signed. But the cash in the case he had pushed across the table had been real enough.

The gravel in front of the garage crunched beneath Mehmet’s shoes.

“Nice house,” Danial Banks said, leaning against the R8 with his arms folded. “Wasn’t your bank prepared to take it as collateral?”

“I’m only renting,” Mehmet said. “The basement.”

“That’s bad news for me,” Banks said. He was much shorter than Mehmet, but it didn’t feel like it as he stood there squeezing the biceps inside his smart jacket. “Because burning it down won’t help either of us if you don’t get anything from the insurance to repay your debt, will it?”

“No, I don’t suppose it would.”

“Bad news for you, too, because that means I’m going to have to use the more painful methods instead. Do you want to know what they are?”

“Don’t you want to know if I can pay first?”

Banks shook his head and pulled something from his pocket. “The instalment was due three days ago, and I told you punctuality was crucial. And so that all my clients, not just you, know that that sort of thing isn’t tolerated, I can’t make any exceptions.” He held the object up in the light of the lamp on the garage. Mehmet gasped for breath.

“I know it isn’t very original,” Banks said, tilting his head and looking at the pliers. “But it works.”


“What part of this don’t you understand? You can choose which finger. Most people prefer the left little finger.”

Mehmet felt it coming. The anger. And he felt his chest expand as he filled his lungs with air. “I’ve got a better solution, Banks.”


“I know it isn’t very original,” Mehmet said, sticking his right hand in his jacket pocket. Pulled it out. Held it out towards Banks, clutching it with both hands. “But it works.”

Banks stared at him in surprise. Nodded slowly.

“You’re right there,” Banks said, taking the bundle of notes Mehmet was holding out to him and pulling the elastic band off.

“That covers the repayment and the interest, down to the last krone,” Mehmet said. “But feel free to count it.”


A match on Tinder.

The triumphant sound your phone makes when someone you’ve already swiped right on swipes your picture right as well.

Elise’s head was spinning, her heart was racing.

She knew it was the familiar response to the sound of Tinder’s matchmaking: increased heart rate as a consequence of excitement. That it released a whole load of happy chemicals that you could become addicted to. But that wasn’t why her heart was galloping. It was because the ping hadn’t come from her phone.

But the ping had rung out at the very moment she’d swiped right on a picture. The picture of a person who, according to Tinder, was less than a kilometre away from her.

She stared at the closed bedroom door. Swallowed.

On Sale
Jan 30, 2018
Page Count
544 pages