Jo Nesbø - Phantom (4 stars)

A new, hard-hitting instalment of the Norwegian author's Harry Hole series

Jo Nesbø - Phantom

(Harvill Secker)

Like all great fictional detectives, Harry Hole is always one step ahead. Not only of us, the reader, but those around him. Which, when you’re trying to solve a crime, is a definite bonus. Less so when it comes to affairs of the heart, when allowing yourself to see things on the same level as other human beings is fairly vital.

Nesbø’s flawed but brilliant hero has brushed against the vulnerability of love on a few occasions, but nobody has come closer to him than Rakel Faulke. The undisputed love of his life, Faulke also brought Hole the possibility of (step) fatherhood via her young son, Oleg.

Having been on the scene from the first Harry Hole novel, The Redbreast, this make-shift ‘family’ has suffered the slings and arrows of Hole’s career more than most, including the odd life-threatening situation. Nesbø regularly dangles a happy ending for Harry and Rakel in front of us, but knows fine well that it’s Hole’s unremitting dedication to duty, not his ability to do the laundry, that keeps us hooked.

So, it should come as no surprise that this, the seventh novel, delivers yet another kick in the teeth to the Harry-Rakel-Oleg relationship. And yet it still smarts. Phantom leaves us reeling, with a storyline and ending that hurts us almost as much as it does the protagonists. After a three-year stint in Hong Kong, Hole returns to the streets of Oslo to find them flooded with a new class A drug, and a murder closer to home than anything he’s experienced before. The twists and turns show Nesbø at his complicated, yet utterly accessible best, and Hole at his undeniably brilliant but self-destructive worst.

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