The Devil's Star

The Devil's Star
The Devil's Star  
Author(s) Jo Nesbø
Original title Marekors
Translator Don Bartlett
Country Norway
Language Norwegian
Series Harry Hole, #5
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Harvill Secker
Publication date 2003
Published in
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 448 pp (Eng. paperback trans.)
Preceded by Nemesis
Followed by The Redeemer

The Devil's Star (Norwegian: Marekors, 2003) is a crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø, the fifth in the Harry Hole series. The story revolves around a serial killer. An English-translated version of the book named The Devil's Star was translated by Don Bartlett.


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 - pentagram, the devil's star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry 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 devil's star is key to solving the riddle.


Following on from 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 Olso, as well as the murder of a number of witnesses (including Harrys' former partner) who threaten his position. Due to a lack of evidence, the response is less than positive and Harry goes on an alcoholic binge and is missing for several days. His superior reluctantly sends termination of employment papers to the Chief Inspector, but Harry gets a short reprieve as the Chief Inspector is on holiday for three weeks and cannot sign them.

A murder victim is discovered, dead in her shower on the fifth floor, having been shot in the head. Tom Waaler leads the investigation, but Harry and his partner, Beate Lønn are assigned to work with Waaler's team. Harry, upon investigating the scene and the victim discovers a small, red five-pointed diamond under the eyelid and that a finger is missing from the left hand.

Another murder victim is assumed when the director of a musical, My Fair Lady reports that his wife has gone missing. Her finger is later sent to Kripos. The director, Wilhelm Barli, is most upset, especially since his wife, Lisbeth, was due to take the lead in My Fair Lady a role he later gives to his wife's sister. A few days later a third victim is found, this time in the female toilets at a local law firm. She is found on her hands and knees, with her head also on the floor and a five-pointed red diamond on the body. Yet again a finger has been removed.

Meanwhile, Tom Waaler - who has heard about Harry's investigation of him - has offered Harry a position in his illegal dealings - especially as Harry's police career seems to be over. He informs Harry that, should he - Harry - wish to be involved, he will be given a specific task to prove his loyalty. Tom indicates the financial benefits of his criminal activities as an inducement. Harry is initially confused as to why Tom Waaler is effectively admitting his guilt, but is reminded that, as an alcoholic, Harry's evidence would not be sufficient to convict Waaler if he went to his superiors. Harry agrees to think about the offer.

A chance sighting of a pentagram brings Harry a flash of inspiration. The five-pointed diamonds found on the victims are in a similar shape - known as a Devils' Star - and Harry remembers having seen the same symbol at the murder scenes. Drawing a pentagram on a map of Oslo, where three of the points are over the murder scenes, Harry indicates that he may be able to find the murderer by keeping the other two points of the star under surveillance. One is in a student halls of residence and the other a house on the outskirts of the City, owned by Olaug Sivertsen.

Checking on Olaug Sivertsen, Beate Lønn discovers that the likely murderer is Olaugs' son, Sven. She informs Harry whilst he and Tom Waaler check out the other prospective crime scene, the student Halls of Residence. Harry lets the information slip to Tom, who immediately leaves to "help" Beate. Harry, using recently installed CCTV cameras, notices another pentagram on a students' door. An investigation of the scene eventually exposes the body of the first victim of the murderer. Meanwhile, Tom Waaler apprehends Sven Sivertsen, though several threats to shoot Sven bring Beate to the arrest. She notes her suspicions and informs Harry that she felt Tom was intending to shoot Sven Sivertsen instead of arrest him.

Harry is given his initiation task by Tom Waaler; get a confession and then kill Sven Sivertsen in custody using a poison. Waaler's influence is such that he apparently can guarantee Harry will succeed in this. Instead, Harry is told by Sven that he is innocent of the crimes and is able to put doubt in Harry's mind. Instead of killing Sven, Harry takes him away from the custody cells and goes into hiding.

Harry is now a hunted man. Sven Sivertsen is willing to testify against Tom Waaler, though he doesn't know who the actual murderer is. Tom Waaler eventually resorts to kidnapping Oleg, the son of Harrys' girlfriend, Rakel to convince Harry to meet him and hand Sven Sivertsen over. Harry arranges a meeting in the student Halls of Residence.

Using the CCTV cameras as a bargaining chip, Harry tries to convince Waaler that his position is hopeless. More and more outrageous cover stories are proposed by Waaler to explain how he intends to cover up what has happened, but eventually Harry manages to hit Waaler and take Sven and Oleg into the nearby lift. Due to the grill-front on the lift, Tom Waaler is able to grab hold of Oleg inside the lift and Harry appears to be prepared to give up. However, he tricks Waaler and instead of returning to the upper floor, forces the lift downwards, eventually severing Waaler's arm. Waaler later dies from loss of blood.

Harry, meanwhile, has worked out who the murderer is - Wilhelm Barli - who committed the murders to avenge the affair his wife was having with Sven Sivertsen. Before Harry can arrest Barli, he commits suicide, as does his wife's sister, who found Lisbeth Barli's body inside a water bed in Wilhelms' home - the pair were by now having an affair of their own.

Having exposed Tom Waaler and solved the murder case, Harry's termination of employment is rescinded and he returns to the force.


The number 5 has several coincidences within the book; it includes:

  • 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 Olaug Sivertsen and, since the murderer actually had a grudge against Sven Sivertsen (Olaugs' son) it is unclear whether it was intended that Olaug or Sven Sivertsen (or either) was to be a murder victim.
  • Five fingers on a hand - each murder victim has had one of their fingers severed. Starting with chronologically Marius Veland's thumb and lastly Barbara Svendsen's ring finger. Had the fifth murder been committed in the final event it would have been a pinky finger missing from the left hand.
  • Each murder takes place on the fifth floor of a building. An exception to this being Marius Veland, the first victim who was known to have been murdered on the fourth floor where his room is. 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.
  • Five o'clock - all the murders are known to have been taken place at around 5:00 pm. In addition, journalist Roger Gjendem was told by Harry Hole to meet him at the Underwater pub at 5:00 pm near the end.
  • Five days' gap between each murder.
  • Each murder victim had a small, 5-pointed red diamond located on the body (usually behind an eyelid) when found.
  • The book consists of five parts.
  • Barbara Svendsen's body was found in balance, supported at five points: the two feet, the knees and the forehead.
  • At one time Harry Hole stood by a closed counter and saw a TV around the corner; the lottery was drawing and the only number he had heard was 5 before Tom began talking to him.

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