Doreen's Reviews > Phantom

Phantom by Jo Nesbø
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's review
Mar 29, 2012

it was amazing
Read in March, 2012

Whew! What a roller coaster ride! For all fans of Harry Hole and Jo Nesbo, this is a must-read.

Harry returns to Oslo from Hong Kong after a three-year absence. Oleg, the son of Rakel (Harry's one, true love), has been charged with the murder of Gusto Hanssen, a drug user who was also Oleg's friend. Although no longer a police officer, Harry sets out to investigate the case against his surrogate son; this investigation soon leads to the discovery of other criminal activity. In particular, Harry tries to identify a mysterious figure known as Dubai who is responsible for the sale of violin, a potent, synthetic drug.

Harry is still Harry, though perhaps more cynical and less hopeful. He is a gifted detective who has been emotionally and physically scarred by all he's seen and done: "He was undoubtedly a very damaged person" (360). At one point he is compared to another man who is "totally, totally alone with his own guilt, his own ghosts, his own loneliness, his own decisions" (350). Harry may think of it as a deficiency but the reader can only admire him for his inability "to tell himself he didn't care, to forget, to clear off" (360).

The plot, as one would expect from Jo Nesbo, is complex. A long list of characters makes an appearance, many involved in drug smuggling and sales and/or corrupt officialdom. There is always more than one person with a credible motive for a crime.

Suspense is kept at a maximum, especially as Harry's investigation takes him into the realm of dangerous people who will stop at nothing to avoid exposure. Harry no longer has the protection of a policeman's badge and does not have easy access to police resources, although he does receive assistance from former colleagues. The use of Gusto, a voice from the grave, as a narrator in certain sections adds to the suspense. Will Harry be able to piece together the information that the reader is given by Gusto?

There are numerous twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, the ending being perhaps the most shocking. Nonetheless, there is ample foreshadowing which suggests the appropriateness of what happens. The book is worthy of a second read to pick up on some of the clues that may have been overlooked on first reading.

The reader should be warned that this is a sombre read. The subject matter, with its focus on the damage done by drugs, is certainly serious. The number of lives ruined by substance abuse keeps piling up, as does the number of people involved in aiding and abetting addiction.

The reader would also be advised to read the Harry Hole novels in order. This is the seventh to be translated into English and, although it can be read alone, a knowledge of Harry's previous relationships and cases will add much depth to one's understanding and enjoyment of this book.

This is a first-class, breathlessly fast-paced, multi-layered thriller. It is perfectly understandable why millions of Nesbo's books have sold worldwide.

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02/05/2016 marked as: read

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