Everyone who was a Swedish crime writer came to front after Stieg Larsson. Stieg’s entry in the popular crime fiction stream through the highly popular Millennium Trilogy paved way for all of them. One of the writers being Jo Nesbo, for which I am glad and thankful.
I have read all the Harry Hole (Nesbo’s protagonist and major detective) novels and been thoroughly entertained by all of them. When I got the opportunity to review Nesbo’s latest Harry Hole novel, “Phantom”, I was ecstatic. Phantom is a riveting read (like most of his earlier books), tightly plotted and fast-paced. The proverbial, never a dull moment is most appropriate to this book.
Harry Hole returns to his home city. Oslo has changed. The drug task force has been successful in erasing the heroin problem from the city. A new drug menace has risen and it’s been delivered by a completely faceless and ruthless gang. The Eastern Europeans are there to stay and aren’t taking no for an answer. Oslo has also had a facelift in its structure. The dirt exists, only needs to be dug deep.
Harry is back and is not wanted or needed anymore. His former girlfriend Rakael’s son Oleg is in trouble. Arrested for murder of his friend Gusto (barely a young boy) and involved with the new drug gang. Harry but of course has taken it on him to save Oleg and find out the real murderer. At the same time, the new gang and the old one do not want Harry alive. It is where the action starts.
The threads are well-connected throughout the book. The book is not cluttered by the over-complication that existed in the earlier books. More so Don Bartlett has provided a brilliant translation keeping in mind Harry’s jokes and the underbelly of Oslo and its description as Nesbo would have originally written.
Phantom’s strength is that it can be a standalone book and readers do not have to refer to the previous Harry Hole books to make sense of what is happening. It is however great to start reading about this detective and what he does right from the beginning to get more perspective. Nesbo’s writing as usual hits the sweet spot of crime and mystery. Phantom is somewhat bleak and realistic portrayal of the drug culture and its impact. The book has clever twists and does not get sentimental, which could have been the danger. It is a captivating read for sure. Top-Drawer.