Fresh Meat: Phantom by Jo Nesbø

Phantom by Jo Nesbø is the seventh in the Harry Hole series of nordic noir crime novels (available October 2, 2012).

When Harry Hole left Oslo again for Hong Kong he thought he was there for good. But then the unthinkable happens. The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn’t help deserting when he fled. Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer.

So now he’s back, in a place where he feels he no longer belongs. What was it that made him come back? Was it only a sense of guilt or did he seek to fill the void he felt in his life? Or was it just the simple fact that he wanted to help Oleg out?

Well, Harry Hole, that most unlikely of heroes, is in a hole. The cops don’t want him back, the criminals don’t want him back, and as for Rakel, the love of his life, she doesn’t want him back even though she needs him. She knows that if there’s one man who can prove her son innocent it’s Harry.

Harry though has no power now, his name carries no weight. Whatever he does he must do as a lone wolf, following the leads from one point to the next, looking at things from different angles and enlisting, somewhat reluctantly, the services of an ex-colleague, a forensic analyst who surprisingly enough still thinks of him as a friend.

To accomplish his goals though Harry has to work carefully, and mind his every step. He no longer has a badge to protect him and get him into places, while for some reason Oleg himself doesn’t seem to warm too much to the idea of Harry investigating the case. The kid has changed. The fact is that he’s no longer a kid. He’s a stubborn young man who did not only lose his way in the world, but also his faith in people in general, and Harry in particular.

The solution to the puzzle that is set before this headstrong and determined man will prove hard to find; not only because of all the obstacles, not just because he feels isolated, but mainly because the good old detective finds himself trapped in some kind of labyrinth, built with secrets and lies, which seems to have a point of entrance but no exit.

The people he meets during his journey into the darkness are drug lords, simple druggies, corrupt cops, desperate men and women with a bleak present and an even darker future, lost souls who were “on a trip to hell in more beautiful surroundings.”

Harry, an ex-alcoholic who works hard to stay away from his poison of choice, is no stranger to this world. He can sympathize with the users, he can understand their vain attempts to escape reality, but that doesn’t mean he will tolerate the people who become rich by taking advantage of them.

He came back to Oslo to help Oleg and he’s determined to do that. But, what if? What if Oleg did kill the man he’s accused of killing? What if he’s not simply a user but also a trafficker? Then what?

Harry’s new world, his new life is just a flight away. Should he just get on the plane and fly back to Hong Kong? But, if he does, will his ghosts stop haunting him? His life with Rakel, his love for Oleg, his whole past; can he simply leave everything behind and flee again? A look at his hand, the one missing the middle finger, lost during his encounter with The Snowman, tells him that no, he can’t. So he’ll keep fighting the good fight, the one that will either lead him to redemption or yet another personal hell.

One could say that Harry Hole is one of the heroes that came here to stay. His creator though thinks otherwise. In a recent interview, Jo Nesbø not only stated that sooner or later Harry Hole will retire, but also hinted that maybe he’ll even die. One way or another it doesn’t matter. What really matters is that with Harry as a guide we have traveled into the darker corners of the Nordic psyche.

Jo Nesbø is the author of sixteen novels, six of which have been translated to English. Phantom is number seven.

See coverage of more new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

Lakis Fourouklas has published four novels and three short-story collections in Greek. He’s currently translating his work into English and blogs at Fiction & More. He also keeps a few blogs in Greek regarding general fiction, Japanese literature, and crime fiction. Follow him on Twitter: @lakisf.  He lives in the wilderness of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Read all posts by Lakis Fourouklas for Criminal Element.

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