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Phantom: Harry Hole 9 Paperback – 2013
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Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Jo Nesbø on Harry Hole
It is not easy to summarize the protagonist of the series in a few words, but here are some features of Harry’s personality that are important to me when I write about him: he’s the type of guy who is driven by his good side as well as his darker side. At times he believes in his role as law enforcer, at other times he doesn’t. And occasionally he is so gripped by his emotions that they overwhelm his basic belief in the principles of a state governed by law. He hunts down criminals with such an intense hatred and finds revenge so hard to resist that at times he could be mistaken for the antagonists he is fighting. But at the same time he can feel empathy for, perhaps even a kinship with, the lawbreaker. Harry Hole is a hero with pronounced weaknesses. All interesting heroes have an Achilles heel, and in Harry’s case, it is alcohol.
Harry feels something akin to what the serial killer feels, the same tension and excitement, when he approaches a victim and the same anti-climax after the killer is caught. It is Harry’s ambition to understand both love and evil. He is a passionate guy in all ways. And he is the type of man who has difficulties controlling his impulses. The fact that he cannot set limits permeates his drinking habits and his attitude to his job. He takes on cases and is swallowed up by them. It is the same with his relationships with women. I could have chosen to make Harry and Rakel live happily ever after and have children, but then we have a completely different person. I like the fact that he is in transit in his own life, as far as his emotions and his job are concerned. I'm often asked how much Harry and I have in common. I won't answer that in detail, but when you make a person a hero, as a writer you are bound to have at least a basic set of values, a goal, a need or a longing that you can relate to.
*Starred Review* In the Booklist review of Nesbø’s The Leopard (2011), we called Oslo police detective Harry Hole “a good man undone by a bad world and a too-sensitive soul.” How right we were—except, perhaps, that we neglected to say that his undoing also has a lot to do with his inability (and unwillingness) to escape his past. This time Harry, no longer a cop, returns to Oslo from his new home in Hong Kong, once again summoned by trouble in the family. In The Leopard, it was his father; now it’s Oleg, the son of Rakel, the love of Harry’s life. Ironically, Rakel left Harry to protect her son from the horrors of Harry’s world, and now those same horrors have found the boy, even in Harry’s absence. First it was drugs, in the form of violin, a new wonder drug that protects the user from a deadly ovedose but is far more addictive than heroin; now Oleg is in jail, accused of killing a fellow addict. The evidence looks rock solid, but Rakel knows that if anyone can prove her boy is not a killer, it’s Harry. Nesbø begins with this emotionally gripping family drama but surrounds it with an elaborate, beautifully constructed plot involving the new drug and the ruthless man who rules its distribution. The subplots, plot twists (especially the last one), and the fully fleshed supporting characters—many of whom could drive their own novels—are all testament to Nesbø’s remarkable talent, but finally, it all comes back to Harry and the pain he endures in trying to carve out a separate peace from a world and a past that won’t let him go. Superb on every level. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: All those Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson fans have jumped on the Nesbo bandwagon. A far-reaching publicity campaign and a 150,000 first printing will make sure they stay there. --Bill Ott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Nesbo captures the drug world of Oslo, a world I know nothing about, and yet from his descriptions, I felt as though I were there. He does a great job of planting clues and foreshadowing that you didn't realize were significant until after the fact. The reason I gave the four stars instead of five stars is because at times, the writing seemed choppy--which might have been due to translation problems--and because part of the story is told from the viewpoint of a dead man. That isn't a spoiler since the first chapter is in the voice of this dying character. It seemed a bit of a shortcut to narrate from this perspective, and I found myself not as interested in those passages. I preferred the passages by characters in the here and now.
But all in all, a good read. I look forward to going back to the first Harry Hole novel, 'The Bat,' now that it's been translated to English.
Nesbo understands addiction. His novels are proof, because they've become a kind of drug, a kind of high that you don't want to end. This is one of the very few cases where, consistently, as soon as I've finished the last pages, I re-read and savor the last chapter. And almost without fail, within an hour I'm on the web looking for Nesbo's next novel. It's hopeless. And I kind of like it that way....
several confusing plots and subplots that collide and intersect with abandon and only make sense as the end approaches;
an alcoholic, self-hating detective (Harry) who is perversely attractive because he’s so bloody brilliant;
lots of violence, much of it directed at Harry;
many characters with strange Norwegian names;
insightful sketches of people worthy of a clinical psychologist;
enough references to streets and neighborhoods in Oslo that you’ll feel moved to call up a Google map of the city;
more than you would ever expect about corruption in the Oslo police; and
a brilliant young writer’s perceptive views of his country, ranked richest in the world by median income.
Phantom, the ninth of Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels, matches any of the others for suspense, complexity, and psychological depth. Harry, no longer a policeman, returns to Oslo for the first time in three years from Hong Kong, where he’s worked as a debt collector for a shady local character. Back home, he confronts the chilling reality that 18-year-old Oleg, son of Rakel Fauke, the love of his life, has been arrested for the murder of a junkie and is now in prison. The police department refuses to allow him to investigate the case because, by their lights, it’s closed: the evidence is compelling.
In pursuing his desperate effort to prove the innocence of the boy who used to call him Dad, Harry becomes embroiled in a puzzling network of junkies, street people, dope dealers, corrupt policemen, and a politician on the make, and, despite his reluctance, reunites with Rakel. The tale unfolds through twists and turns, puzzling to the end — with major questions left unanswered. It’s this sort of brain-teasing complexity that keeps bringing me back for more of Jo Nesbo’s work.
So far, I’ve read and reviewed Nesbo’s The Bat, Cockroaches, The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star, The Redeemer, and The Leopard. I have two to go: The Snowman and Police. You’ll see my reviews of them in this space in due time.