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on 23 March 2012
I have read all the Harry Hole novels in order several times, and I eagerly awaited this instalment. Unlike many, I enjoyed the Leopard, even if at times it did feel over long.
Phantom is just the right length, and continues three years after the end of the Leopard, as Harry steps off the plane from Hong Kong, this time in an expensive suit, no sign of the trademark Doc Martens and Diesel jeans.
He is back to investigate the death of a junkie, the man accused of his death being Harry's surrogate son Oleg.
No longer a policeman, Harry does not know who he can trust, and many of the characters we have come to know from previous novels turn up along the way, CSI chief Beate, Gunnar Hagen, Bellman, Beavis and of course Rakel, Oleg's mother and the love of Harry's life.
The plot unfolds through the seamier side of Oslo, and we meet the drug dealers, pushers and prostitutes, this is not a tour of Oslo for the tourist.
Poor Harry, having been scarred for life in the Leopard, he has to undergo all manner of physical and mental battering in this one.
Some of his escapes from death do stretch credibility a bit, he is after all meant to be a chain smoker, alcoholic and opium user in his mid forties, but this did not detract anything from this stunning book for me.
The final third is a complete roller coaster, with so many twists and turns, that I read it in one chunk, and I was completely stunned by the ending.
I cannot recommend Phantom too highly, but I do recommend you read all the Harry Hole novels in order, plot and characters will be easier to understand.
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on 17 July 2013
I thought the Phatom was the best Harry Hole novel yet despite its detractors and then there is this. It's full of surprises, twists and turns in the same way but is altogether fresh in its approach. What really obsesses the reader is the eternal HH question - will this amazingly talented and principled man ever get a real break in life? I'm not sure that's Nesbo's style but I can't help feeling very sorry for Harry's long-suffering lover, Rakel. At least give her a break!
There is a strong current of nihilism in this instalment of the series broken only by the kindnesses of Harry's love interest from 'The Redeemer', and I wanted to scream at Harry to get over his issues with God and to find the reson for his underlying humanity and commitment to doing the right thing. Thank goodness there is that positive here at least, and it's what ultimately keeps this novel from sinking the reader into despair.
Can't wait for the next one, titled 'Police' apparently!
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on 21 March 2014
‘Phantom’ is a ninth installment in the Detective Harry Hole series masterfully written by Jo Nesbø which brought once again the exciting and, in the last few sequels, often disturbing events and crimes that this unusual Detective is trying to solve.

This novel after the previous placed in Hong Kong, again takes place in Harry’s homeland, in Oslo, when Oleg, the son of Rakel, the love of his life and the boy Harry helped when he was kid, has been arrested for homicide. Harry will not be able to accept that Oleg is a murderer, while both reader and Harry will remember that Oleg’s mother left Harry to protect her son from all the horrors which surround Harry.

However bad things caught up the boy, therefore Harry will decide to come back home after three year exile, trying to prove Oleg’s innocence but also trying to found the real killer. Though Harry is not anymore formally Detective, his quest will take him deep into the underground of narcotics world where he will find out about the new drug that becomes more popular each day. It comes in the form of violin and protects the user from a deadly overdose being much more addictive than any other.

This investigation will be the most personal one so far, making Harry not only to find out uncomfortable truth about a boy accused of killing fellow addict whom he almost considered his son, but also about his own past and present…

It is likely that if you read this novel you are already familiar with dark hero and style of the author that made Nesbø currently probably the most popular thriller author, especially in Europe. As was the case with all Nesbø's previously released works, once again he delivers his own unique style that lacks any beautification, only offering a realistic story devoid of any pathos and unrealistic plot.

Of course, a key figure what make his novels different is his main character Detective Harry Hole, that in the meantime is not Detective any more, since he no longer works for the police.

Although through the earlier works reader had a chance to learn about his present, and find out a lot about his turbulent past, ‘Phantom’ is perhaps novel that introduce most details about the past of the main character that made him the way he is – having multiple character flaws and problems with alcohol, without any true love, lonely and with heavy secret from his past that influenced his career.

On the other hand ‘Phantom’ somehow differs due to the main motive from all the other previous episodes because the story is focused on drugs and everything that this addiction does to the man, all the horrors that it will drives him to do. Also, it was interesting to read about the capital of Norway, which is considerably different from the perception people around the world have about Scandinavian society that is anything but nice and safe.

This Nesbø story also offers a fantastic twist on which we will not talk about anything, not to spoil the joy of reading. An though regular readers are already used and somehow expect it to happen, you can be sure that this time you will surely be surprised and hold at the edge of the chair in anticipation of how the story will end.

‘Phantom’ is must-read recommendation for each Jo Nesbø fan, in my opinion, perhaps his best novel in a series that will shock you, upset you, make you sad, and yet as soon as you close the last page you’ll want more.
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on 19 March 2012
I have just finished reading this book and I have to admit that I am absolutely blown away. I am a devoted Jo Nesbo fan and I have read all the Harry Hole novels published in the UK. Jo Nesbo continues to excel himself and surprise readers. I bought Phantom on its first day of publication, really hoping it would be good after the disappointment of The Leopard. Phantom is set three years after the events of The Snowman (still my favourite Harry Hole novel) and once I recovered from the initial shock of discovering why Harry Hole has returned to Oslo, the story just kept getting better. Only a master of his craft like Jo Nesbo can begin a book from a rat's viewpoint and keep his readers gripped. Unlike The Leopard, every twist in this book is riveting and while nearly every character is flawed, their flaws only serve to make them feel more real. I was stunned by the final twist at the end and reading the book I actually felt a gut-wrenching pain in my stomach and horror at what was revealed. The cons of this book such as learning the back story through the eyes of a dead character (an unnecessary plot device, in my opinion), are far outweighed by the pros. Phantom is a fantastic, fast paced, exciting, thrilling and touching novel that packs an emotional punch. Although I recommend newcomers read all the Harry Hole series in the right order otherwise some of the novel's resonance will be lost. Phantom deserves high praise for being such a thoroughly enjoyable and brilliantly plotted novel with a lead character you really root for. While I think The Snowman is Nesbo's best work, Phantom reminded me of The Redeemer, another excellent novel in the series. I give Phantom five stars, not simply, for the novel itself, but for Harry Hole who, along with his creator Jo Nesbo, deserves to become the biggest phenomenon in publishing since the dream team of Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larsson. A delight from start to finish, Phantom is an unforgettable, masterful novel written by an author at the height of his powers. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Read it, you won't regret it. 10 out of 10!
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VINE VOICEon 9 December 2013
I've read a few Harry Hole novels and have worried that they have not been in the right order. In truth I don't think it matters as they have been published in the UK in a different order from Norway. This book is the ninth of ten (currently) novels with this character.
The book starts with two maps which is usually a good thing in my eyes, and the maps are of Oslo which means Harry is returning home so even better.
"Everything was new. Everything was the same" is a phrase which Harry uses a lot during this story with reference to his return to Oslo. I felt the same about my return to a Harry Hole book. I didn't find it confusing, I found it to be a solid crime thriller but it was far too much the same as the previous books that I have read.
I understand that it is a fine balance for a writer of a crime thriller series, they have to keep the continuity of the same investigator while adding enough variety to keep readers interesting. I think in this book Jo Nesbo does too much of the first and not enough of the second.
That said, it is well written and if you're a big fan of Harry then you'll love it but not the book to start on if you've never read any JN before (try The Snowman!).
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on 23 January 2014
This is the first Harry Hole book I've read. It works well as a standalone novel, but now I will go back to the beginning and start with The Bat. Nesbo revisits enough background for the new reader to get what they need - hopefully without irritating the loyal fans who have read every last book.
The novel focuses a lot on father (figure)-son relationships, and the effects of father absense - Harry is back to look out for his ex's son, to make up for not being there. The strange, kooky priest figure/nutcase/tramp mentions Abraham and Isaac, although he mainy just rambles on. Q. How much danger will a dad risk for his boy, even though he shares no DNA A. Everything, because he is harry hole, ace detective, intuit, reformed alkie and street fighter extraordinaire!
Another Dad-link is that the junkie/dealer murder victim addresses all his part of the story to his unknown dad.
In fact, this back story coming from the last thoughts of a victim is a device which usually puts me off, but I enjoyed those sections as much as the main novel, because they pushed the story along with some nice reveals, without any of the metaphysical pondering that would have bogged it down.
There are various "Phantoms", from Russian ghost stories, phantom one legged beggars, to the shady identities of those running the city's several drug pushing networks. All very neat.
I loved the style and complexity of the writing, and it goes without saying that it was certainly exciting enough.
I will try to read the other harry hole novels, though I know I won't manage all of them - I started on Leopard long ago and found the opening scene too distressing - the randomness of being picked to be an innocent victim, and the gruesome method haunted me for always and I gave up. Phantom is more bearable because the murder is not random, but a fairly inevitable result of the junkie's own actions. And he is far from innocent, although sometimes I found myself rooting for him against the more powerful or despicable characters, just until he surpassed himself by doing the next truly awful thing, and the next, and the next.
A great tale with believable characters, unbelievable action and survival, and interconnections galore
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 July 2013
This latest Jo Nesbo novel is a typically fast-moving, gripping and twisting tale of hero (now) ex-detective Harry Hole, on returning to his native Oslo from 3 years' isolation in Hong Kong, finding himself attempting to clear the name of the son, Oleg, of his ex (Rakel), who is suspected of the murder of a fellow drug addict and trafficker. There follows an intricately plotted narrative of corrupt police officers, local politicians and Russian drugs mafia, all skilfully interwoven with Harry's own internal conflicts around his future career ambitions and his ambivalence towards his own personal relationships.

Although there are some typically great moments here, notably the clever way Nesbo runs his two parallel (past and present) narratives (plus an additional strand from a rat's eye viewpoint!) and via Harry's interaction with one of the few remaining characters established in the preceding Hole novels, forensics officer Beate Lonn, I found Nesbo's new characters here rather superficially drawn (particularly in comparison with my favourite Hole novels, such as The Devil's Star and The Snowman) and not sufficiently engaging. For me, the novel did not really take off until the latter stages, when Nesbo inundates the reader with a series of surprising plot twists, the most significant of which will no doubt keep some readers on tenterhooks until (from a more cynical viewpoint) our hero re-emerges for the next instalment from this leading writer of the crime genre.
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(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
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on 6 May 2014
I almost abandoned this book numerous times throughout the first half. I've read three other Harry Hole books leading up to this one, but found Phantom was very tedious and only improves in the second half.

The problem I had is that I don't enjoy the Rakel and Oleg characters, how they seemingly turn up just to interfere and derail stories/relationships like they did in The Snowman or The Leopard. This story is entirely about those two characters, in particular Oleg, and I found the experience of reading it was a chore.

However, the worst element of the Phantom is not Rakel or Oleg; it's a character called Gusto who's thoughts form the bulk-load of the story, a bit like a diary. He's a young drugs-pusher with aspirations to run his own business. I found his persona almost unbearable, particularly his over-use of the word 'fricking'.

The book gets back on-track every time we rejoin Harry and follow him into more chaos than I expected. The ending is pretty entertaining and ultimately saves the book from being a real dud. All in all, I struggle to recommend it unless you're a big Harry Hole fan.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 March 2012
Wow, this is a story that just blew me away. I've not read anything by Jo Nesbo, and although this book features the rehabilitated return of a character from earlier works, this one stands alone very well. The prose, pace, characters, plot and dialogue are absolutley first class.

This is a book that hooks the reader from the very first page. I like the use of maps, particularly as this story is set in a country and city which I'm not familiar with. It adds to the feel and sense of reality which makes the story even more plausible. At times it's easy to imagine you are actually in Oslo. But it's the dark and seamy underbelly of the city which we explore. The filth, smells, squalor and low life. I became absolutely immersed in the story immediately and found it very difficult to put down. Nothing is straightforward. Little is as it seems and each page leaves you wanting to turn to the next to see where it's going. And it doesn't always go where you think; it's full of unexpected twists. The pace borders on frightening at times! Truly, it's fast and furious and gets even faster as the story develops. I found the characters compelling. There is angst, conflict, corruption and betrayal all par for the course, but the mix of ingredients here is just right. There's empathy for those who deserve it and I liked everything about the way the narrative storms forward. Another new author for me and I'll certainly be reading the earlier works as well. Brilliant and highly recommended.
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