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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Phantom and Police by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo has a new book coming out in 2017, and I realized that I still had not read the last two in his Harry Hole series.  I was getting a little tired of Harry's frequent falls from grace and the increasing violence, red herrings, and misdirections and took a break after reading Snowman.

But last week's library trip found me placing Phantom (2012) and Police (2013) in my bag, and I read through both novels within a couple of days.  I will be prepared when Thirst comes out in 2017.

*The Harry Hole series can be best appreciated if you've read the earlier novels.  But fair warning, these are dark and brutal books.

Phantom brings Harry back to Oslo from Hong Kong because Rakel's son Oleg has been arrested for the murder of his junkie friend Gusto.  Much of the story is interspersed with Gusto's dying thoughts which explain some of the backstory required for this complicated plot.  

Harry has returned to find a way to prove Oleg's innocence--if he is innocent.  He is not terribly concerned with who killed Gusto, as long as it wasn't Oleg.

Parts of Phantom are engrossing, but it is a brutal story of vicious violence and corruption.  The book feels even longer than it actually is because of the number of characters and various subplots that are all intertwined--drugs and the mysterious drug lord called Dubai, police and political corruption, lots of murders.

The secondary characters that made up Harry's team in the previous novels are barely mentioned because Harry is no longer a policeman.  In previous books, the balance provided by the familiar team helped counteract some of the darker elements of the plots.  

As usual, Harry finds himself in a fine mess and struggles with commitment, but his character does show a change in Phantom.  The conclusion may come as a surprise.

Library copy.

Crime/Nordic Noir.  2012.  466 pages.

Police continues the misdirection Nesbo used in Phantom It is difficult to review this book as almost any comment on the plot becomes a spoiler.

At first, I was happy because the old team reunites to help with the murders of several policemen.  Seeing the team work together was initially rewarding, but Nesbo throws in some unpleasant surprises.  

To keep the reader off balance and prevent the reader from making any logical deductions, Nesbo uses "he" to refer to the actions of the bad guy, and the tangled schemes leave the guilty party ambiguous--makes it pretty difficult to have any insight into character or behavior when the villain could be almost any of the characters.  Nesbo puts more effort into keeping the reader in the dark and offering conflicting scenarios than anything else.

The novel turns out to be more complicated than complex, and the complicated manipulation of  plot elements annoyed me.  Gimmick after gimmick.  

And yet--having followed the series for several years (although I did begin to have reservations after Snowman, reviewed here), Nesbo does keep me reading.  Which is why I will read Thirst when it comes out--and hope that it will conclude the series.  Oh, and hope Mikael Bellman meets his downfall.  Of course, I've hoped for that for a long time, and the man survives.

Library copy.

Nordic Noir.  2013.  644 pages.


  1. I tried to read a Nesbo once, but just couldn't get into it, even though I usually like Scandinavian crime thrillers. And now, whenever I see one of his books I think, maybe I should try reading that one; maybe I'll like it better. But then I don't. I just don't think Nesbo is the author for me. :)

    1. I do think the books are better if read from the beginning, and although all of the books are violent, I've liked Nesbo's writing. For the last two, I think my world is just too different from what he is writing about.

  2. I enjoyed reading the first book but didn't get to the rest then due to much distractions of other books. ;) Harry sounds like an intriguing character so I know I'll be checking out the rest of this series in the near future.

    1. There are always so many distractions! So many books to read, so little time. I will read the new one even if I've become a little disenchanted with the series. :)