I’m usually a pretty OCD mystery reader when it comes to series — I like to start at the beginning and experience the character from first book to last. I know some readers who just jump in and hope for the best. My brain doesn’t deal well with that.
Yet, for some reason, when I first decided to read Jo Nesbø‘s work, I started with the critically-acclaimed The Snowman. The great cover design certainly helped. And despite being able to figure out the core mystery fairly quickly, I was hooked by Nesbø’s gritty protagonist Harry Hole and his equally entertaining supporting cast. Harry Hole was a more extreme version of another series favorite, Michael Connelly’s excellent Harry Bosch, and a bit hipper — he was into cool music while battling his demons and addictions.
Eventually, I got to The Leopard and jumped back as early as I could (apparently, not all the Hole books have been translated) and read The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star and The Redeemer. I did suffer a bit for deviating from the order — I knew where some characters were going to end up when I went back and read some of the earlier books — but that didn’t take away too much from enjoying the experience. Nesbø’s a master plotter, and while he avoids the jaw-dropping surprise ending with most of his books, he manages to keep you on your toes with well-crafted red herrings and, in later books, multiple and unreliable perspectives that eventually crash together to make Harry’s sad life all the worse.
Which brings me to the latest in Nesbø’s Harry Hole series: Phantom. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of the book from the crew at Knopf, which was perfectly timed. I’d just finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on the train and found the package with Phantom at my apartment when I got home. Anyway.
After spending a few books exploring Harry’s earlier adventures, I was slightly worried that I’d have some trouble catching up to Harry post-The Leopard, but Phantom does a great job of taking subplots and threads from the previous books and weaving them into the current narrative without forcing the reader to go back and wonder if they missed anything.
Phantom brings us to the present day, three years after The Leopard and even further from The Snowman, with Harry back in Oslo because someone close to him has been detained on murder charges. No longer a cop, Harry is forced to investigate on his own time and on his own terms. Not surprisingly, he finds that there’s much more to the case than victim and murderer.
Nesbø’s great at dumping a pile of disparate, seemingly disconnected plot threads onto the table and leading you to the link between all of them, while pushing his characters forward, refusing to let them get stale. I was happy to find Harry to be a slightly different character from the one I left. Like life, people evolve and change and sometimes not for the better.
Phantom is less about the core mystery than the execution of Harry’s very personal investigation, one that takes him on a tour of old friends, enemies and new villains. Phantom‘s a good read so far. I’m just bummed I have to wait until the next Harry Hole book comes out now.
This write-up was based on an ARC sent by Knopf. Thanks to them!