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"A murder is a white whale. A missing person is a white whale. If you've seen a white whale twice, it's the same whale.",
This review is from: Phantom: A Harry Hole Mystery (Paperback)
(4.5 stars) In this seventh novel in the Harry Hole series to be translated into English, author Jo Nesbo, with over eleven million thrillers in print, continues to detail Harry's fight against the symbolic "white whales" of injustice. Here, all Harry's experience and knowledge as an Oslo policeman are readied for the biggest fight of his life, one to which he willingly makes a complete emotional commitment. Though he has lived in Hong Kong in self-imposed exile for three years, Harry has just learned that Oleg, the son of Rakel, the love of his life, is now jailed on remand in Oslo for the murder of a drug dealer. Harry has always had problems with alcohol, bureaucratic nonsense, and self-control, even during his career with the Oslo Police, and he has battle scars, both visible and invisible, which have made him a cynical man, but he immediately returns to Oslo to review the case, hoping that he can save Oleg, who has always thought of him as "Dad."
What follows is the most emotionally involving of all the Harry Hole novels to date. Readers should be cautioned, however, that the mainstream press, in their reviews, have included a number of unforgivable spoilers, and one of them in the UK nearly ruined this book for me. This is a book that will strike chords with diehard Harry Hole fans throughout the world, though Nesbo does not give as much background information as many new readers may want in order to appreciate the action surrounding Harry and Oleg and their history.
(No spoilers.) Gusto, a friend of Oleg for several years, has been working for an Oslo drug dealer nicknamed "Dubai," who controls "violin," the most addictive new drug ever to have appeared on Oslo's busy drug scene and for which there is the biggest demand in the city. Dubai is in the catbird seat, eliminating his competition, and when the supply of violin itself begins to dry up due to a shortage of materials relative to demand, Harry begins to investigate whether Dubai and his street dealers are being protected by police and politicians.
Nesbo is a bit "cute" (or darkly humorous) at the beginning, which he tells from the point of view of a rat trying, unsuccessfully, to reach its hungry babies. The body of a wounded young drug addict is blocking her access to them. The point of view then switches to that of the dying young man, Gusto, who is reviewing the circumstances of how he ended up where he is, providing information which connects later with other aspects of the plot. This pattern repeats at the beginning of the next two sections. Phantom provides enough action to keep even the jaded reader actively engaged, however, and Harry is a constantly moving target who must tread carefully, remembering that a misstep can endanger both Oleg and Rakel. Occasionally, the details of the various thread lines become a bit fuzzy and some local slang (not familiar in the US) can sometimes be mystifying. Parts of the story are absurd, even bleakly funny, in retrospect, but Nesbo's pacing will keep most readers reading so fast they will not stop to question what is happening. Ultimately, Nesbo brings this novel to a blockbuster conclusion in emotional and cinematic fashion. Readers who have read the previous Harry Hole novels will not want to miss this one, preferably before the spoilers begin to get more publicity than the novel itself. Mary Whipple