Following from Jo Nesbø's electrifying international best sellers The Snowman and The Leopard, now comes Phantom, which plunges the brilliant, deeply troubled, now former police officer Harry Hole into a full-tilt investigation on which his own tenuous future will come to depend.
When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong - fleeing the traumas of life as a cop - he thought he was there for good. But then the unthinkable happened. The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn't help deserting when he fled. Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer. Barred from rejoining the police force, he sets out on a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him deep into the world of the most virulent drug to ever hit the streets of Oslo (and the careers of some of the city's highest officials), and into the maze of his own past, where he will find the wrenching truth that finally matters to Oleg, and to himself.
©2012 Jo Nesbø (P)2012 Random House Audio
What has happened to our "hero" Harry Hole? Never a matinee idol, a current description of Harry is starting to sound like an introduction to a monster. A towering 6'4"' Harry's face now has more scars than a plastic surgery ward.
And when I first started listening in on the Hole saga, there was humorous cultural commentary woven throughout the unfolding story. Lately following Harry is a dark, sometimes tedious, journey into the worst of human nature with no comic relief.
Harry is constantly physically attacked, piling on more scar tissue as he goes. You can just imagine Nesbo wreaking his revenge on his signature character and defining a love - hate relationship.
And at the end of this book, you may wonder if we have seen the last of our old pal Harry. Certainly, it seems, any chance he ever had of personal happiness is doomed. I don't know if I will tune into his next chapter.
Jo Nesbo, lighten up and show your guy Harry a little love!
If you are a lover of the crime/mystery genre, there is no better author at work today. Do yourself a favor and start at the beginning, you will better appreciate both the character of Harry Hole, but fascinate in the completeness of each book and the Nesbo's crafting plots that don't just "add on" but actually create a greater depth and complexity without forcing it in any way.
I can only compare this work to the other Scandinavian genius, Stieg Larsson. As different as they are in their flawed characters, Lizbeth Salander and Harry Hole are both so engaging and tragic in their pursuit of an ideal as they battle their demons.
Listening to Robin Sachs become Harry is like watching Alec Guinness become George Smiley. He so embodies Hole's fatalistic and tortured search for the truth and justice with the tone and pace of his narration, that the need for accents or voice modulations become superfluous. Very few readers can get away with this, as differentiating characters without them is an art. Sachs is one of those narrators I will seek out, despite the mediocrity of some for whom he applies his craft.
The ending is transcendent. It could not have been anticipated and without giving anything away, it is proof again of Nesbo's genius and refusal to take the safe route. And there is just enough ambiguity to keep the devoted hopeful of more to come.
I have read, rather listened, to virtually every Euro/crime novelist. The classic and contemporary Brits and all the "young turk" Scandies. The only exceptions being some good writers that some publishers have shackled with unlistenable narrators. This pairing of Nesbo and Sachs is the polar opposite. Great narration of great writing creates nearly flawless storytelling. I envy those of you who haven't discovered Jo Nesbo. Hopefully it won't take Scorcese's adaptation to make you a believer.
Say something about yourself!
To tell the truth, at first I didn't think I was going to like this book--and I was surprised because I have loved all Nesbo's previous novels. It started out kind of slow, but interesting--just didn't grab me at the beginning--which did happen with The Snowman and The Leopard. However, just as I was about to put it away for the night, WHAM---it takes off and never stops. I ended up listening to it for hours. A fast paced, entertaining, and intelligent thriller, it may be Jo Nesbo's best yet.
The main plot is woven in and out with several sub-plots, and plenty of surprising twists. Even though Harry is now a former police officer, he comes back from Hong Kong to help Oleg, the son of his long time love interest, Rakel. Oleg has been arrested for murder, but Harry is convinced he is innocent. It becomes a dangerous investigation that pulls him into the violent and gritty drug world in Oslo. An extremely desirable new drug, "violin", is being sold on the streets - and some people will do anything to get it. We are used to Harry getting into situations that leave him bloody, bruised, and mangled, and this novel is no different. The "cringe factor" is definitely present.
Well worth the credit. You won't be disappointed-but you WILL be left with a lot to think about. I didn't see the surprise end coming--can't wait to see what happens in the next book.
Warning: this is written from the point of view of a Scandinavian Noir addict who has attempted to read/listen to every english translation of the genre since discovering Henning Mankell and his alcoholic, depressed Kurt Wallander decades ago.
Second warning: Do not read this book if you have not read others in the series. It's best to start with Red Breast and read in order.
Harry Hole, Jo Nesbø's protagonist, follows the tradition as an alcoholic, depressed police detective with a critical eye on the society around him, a misfit, and failure in his relationships. In every book in the series Nesbø puts this stereotypical character in the midst of plots with so many twists and turns and surprises that the reader's desire to find out the next development does not diminish until the end.
I rated the story four stars instead of five because of the violence the author does to Harry who, like the old Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going and going. I'd like to add a half star for the social commentary,i.e."[Norway] is a fairy-tale country".
Though Nesbø's famous predecessors were Swedish, Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall writing in the sixties through Mankell and Steig Larrson, he has taken the prize home to Norway.
Lover of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, and westerns in all media, including old-time radio dramatizations.
From my review of 'The Bat':
The Harry Hole character reminds me a little of Jesse Stone. He's definitely not your squeaky-clean hero. This series was recommended to me by someone who saw that I enjoyed Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels, and I'm grateful that he did. The summary is that it was worth the credit, but I'm not yet hooked and pining for the next book. I've purchased the next available audio book, number 3 in the series. We'll see how it goes. If I don't get a little more out of it, Harry may have to go on the shelf for a while.
Keep in mind, when reading my opinions, that darkish detective fiction is not really my thing, so I don't have a lot to compare Nesbo's work. I thought it was solid believable fiction, and, like Larsson's, very well translated. It felt like it was written for native English speakers. In a number of parts, I was amazed see that the humor translates well. Someone did a great job. Sean Barrett's performance of the various accents was very good, but the voice of Harry never quite fit the character for me. Other reviewers have stated a preference for another reader as Harry, but as this is my first in the series, I can't say. Sometimes, when the reader of a series changes, the new one doesn't get a fair chance. We (fans) like of character's voices to stay the same.
If you like the genre, give Harry a spin. You won't regret the credit, and may get to really like him.
Review of 'Phantom':
Well, I'm not at book 9 of the series. I find that I do prefer Robin Sach's narration, and I've come to think of him as Harry. As always, he does a very creditable job with 'Phantom.'
My views on the series and the Harry character haven't changed. It's too dark for me. Each release in the series shows Harry giving in more and more to his personal demons - drugs, alcohol, and ruined relationships. I understand that there is trauma in real life, but real life usually has some ups and downs. Harry never seems that get off of his slippery-slope. In addition, I prefer my heroes to have redeeming values besides just a particular skill. The only consistent positive in Harry's life is his uncanny ability to solve crime. By book 9, Harry has dropped all pretense of caring anything about the rule-of-law. I find it disturbing when fictional characters like Harry are made into heroes, or at least examples of the real world. It doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be, that way.
I thought that Harry's downward slide might be a literary gimmick to keep us reading in the hope that there would finally be a turn-around, but after 9 books, I don't see it coming. I'm not likely to continue the series.
All that said, 'Phantom,' like the rest of the series, is solid fiction. If you disagree with my perspective on the character of Harry, and enjoy dark detective fiction, then you will probably like it.
This book is so monotonously degrading to its characters... all of them. A huge portion of it is devoted to the journalistic confessions of a villain who is in no way made compelling.
I stopped reading because I purchased a Harry Hole novel, not some weak homage to Poe.
Perhaps Jo Nesbo, like Henning Mankell (who finished off poor Wallander with senile dementia) has decided to weaken and degrade his hero as a means to freeing himself from the bothersome demands of his loyal readers . As another reviewer noted the novel leaves Hole with minimal chance of recovering health or love. Nevermind that a huge part of the draw of the series has been the readers hope that Harry who has sacrificed so much to protect the people in his life will at last find some rest and peace.
.Anyway, if you are new to the Harry Hole series, I highly recommend every one of the predecessors to this horrible book, but dont waste your money or your time on this baddie.
Harry's back from Hong Kong. He's trying to help clear Oleg's name. He finds himself immersed in Oslo's illegal drug melieu. Harry is still a very screwed up (ex)cop.
Nesbo's attention to all characters, concise dialogue,
bleak but drugs are destroyers
Hole of course
yes but for me not the best Harry Hole
the darkness of drugs -- the reality of an addiction's destructiveness permeates this entire book.
I love audio books. As I spend hours a day driving they keeps me going. Thank you great performers and delightful writers.
The pain Harry goes through is heart wrenching. This is not the book to start with if you are going to read Jo Nesbo...
What defines a person? Murder defines Harry. That and being a policeman.
I relistened to the last few chapters to make sure... I cried for the people left standing. Robin Sachs is the reason Harry touches your heart.
A few must reads: Mr. Mercedes, Narrows Gate, Cop Town, Bomb Proof, Wayfaring Stranger, The Son (Nesbo), Dept Q series...
I've never been disappointed in any Of Nesbo's works. This one is particularly painful because of the extreme abuse Harry Hole endures. Someone wrote that Nesbo hates Harry Hole, given the physical and emotional abuse Hole endures throughout the series. He does start out a tall, handsome guy with a drinking problem and slowly digresses into a homely, bulbous nose, physically and emotionally scarred drunk and junkie.
But what attracts me to this character is how honest and clever he is with solving crimes, while enduring so much suffering. I hope this series never ends.
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