Phantom is the first Harry Hole and the first Jo Nesbo novel I’ve read. He lives up to the hype. Nordic crime fiction seems to share a sort of dark and moody atmosphere. Nesbo has that too, but he also has more action and intensity than some of the other Nordic novelists I’ve read. Having not read any Harry Hole books before, I felt I was able to pick up on the character and his background rather quickly. Reading earlier novels in the series would be helpful and perhaps enrich the experience, but it is not necessary to read them in order to enjoy this book..
Harry Hole is an outstanding character. Dark, brooding, and trapped by his policeman nature that doesn’t allow him to pursue his own happiness. He recognizes that there are any number of choices along the way, but he always picks the one that drags him in deeper and leads him closer to the truth.
Nesbo paints a grim and unforgiving picture of Oslo and particularly the drug scene there. Harry Hole’s outlook is nearly as dark. He knows he has a blind spot for Rakel and Oleg, the woman he left behind and her son, but he fights through it to find the truth behind the murder Oleg has been accused of. His own alcoholic past leaves him few friends among his former police colleagues upon whom he can rely. Where others are willing to accept easy answers, Harry keeps pushing, no matter the personal cost.
Phantom is an intense book, and the last half of the book rushes at you with a series of twists and turns that keeps you guessing and a shocking ending that will stick with you long after you put the book down. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book