phantom-jo-nesboIt’s that time of year again when we try to lay the ghosts of the past year and prepare ourselves for the fresh bright new days of 2013. The dark, cold winter evenings are at their height and if it’s not snowing (it’s been two years since we had a white Christmas in Ireland), then its either raining or blowing a gale. The perfect reason to stay in by the radiator with a good book.  Another person trying to rid himself of the ghosts of his past and wishing he was back in a warm climate is ex police inspector Harry Hole (pronounced Hool). Norwegian Crime writer Jo Nesbo’s creation is now in his ninth book, Phantom. But at time of reviewing this, the tenth Harry Hole book has been translated into english.

Phantom finds harry back in his native Oslo far from his current life as a debt collector for a Hong Kong Businessman. He’s a changed man following his run in with the serial killer “The Snowman”, both mentally and physically. The events of the previous two books have ripped his life apart. He returns to a different Oslo that he worked the streets as a leading police detective; the city is now in the grip of a new drug.

Harry had no intention of returning, but when Oleg the son of his ex girlfriend Rakel is found guilty of murdering a Junkie. He feels he has no option but to try to re-open a seemingly straightforward case of murder. It’s easier said then done as the Oslo police, once his colleagues now don’t want a bumbling, on the wagon, ex cop walking all over their case. But harry is never one to take no for an answer and goes about attempting to solve the case in his usual unorthodox way, while trying to re kindle the relationship between himself and Rakel. On top of all this, his every movement his being watched and somebody wants him dead.

You have to hand it to Jo Nesbo his writing is vivid and the situations he gets harry into are tension filled but also slightly madcap. In one instance in the book he goes about plundering the grave of the victim in the dead of night with a straight laced lawyer for assistance. Which then turns into a pursuit across the city dressed in the same muddy, sweat and blood stained suit he’s been wearing for days, with a large cut on his neck which is stitched Rambo style with sewing thread and reinforced with gaffer tape, making him appear to the minds eye like a sort of cross between Frankenstein and John McClane. He’s also carrying the large scar from a previous encounter years ago on his cheek, talk about having that “lived-in” look. Not forgetting Harry is also supposed to be quite and blonde, that is until Tom Cruise gets his hands on the role.

Jo again delivers another great read, with harry back on familiar jo nesboground and leading us up and down the mysterious streets of Oslo. I’ve never been but after reading a number of these books I’d like to walk in Harry’s footsteps through the almost unpronounceable street names and areas of the city. If there’s one down side to the book it’s the whole chapters given over too one of the minor characters in the book talking to his dead father which stop-starts the whole story.

So if your looking to escape the festive hula-baloo, then take up a glass of one warming spirit and follow harry and his into the new year.

(First published  2012)