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Phantom    by Jo Nesbo order for
by Jo NesbÝ
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Phantom (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett) follows The Snowman and The Leopard as the seventh in Jo NesbÝ's outstanding series starring alcoholic loner, ex-Crime Squad Police Inspector Harry Hole.

As this new episode opens, Harry has made a life for himself in Hong Kong, and is in control of his drinking and drug abuse. He has no desire to return to Oslo. But there is one thing that will always draw him back - his feelings for Rakel, the 'great love of his life', and her son Oleg, 'who sometimes called him Dad'. The latter is in big trouble - a drug addict, he's accused of the murder of Gusto Hanssen, a friend, fellow addict and drug dealer.

The author frames his story in a rat's quest to return to her nest (blocked by a human body) and the dying musings of the occupant of that soon-to-be corpse, mulling over what led to this state. Dark but effective! Readers also share the thoughts of gangster Sergey Ivanov, who's anxious to add the tattoo for a kill to those that already adorn his skin. Sergey is part of an organization that supplies a potent new drug, violin, to the streets of Oslo.

Desperate to believe in Oleg's innocence despite evidence that ties him to the crime, Harry exploits all his old contacts to investigate the killing. He uncovers the murder of a young undercover narcotics agent, rumors of a mysterious drug mastermind from Dubai, a theft of methadone intended for drug rehabilitation, and plenty of corruption in high places. Harry foils an attempt to kill Oleg in jail, and is warned that they are after him too.

The action and violence quickly escalate in Phantom, as Harry fights off assassins and stumbles over corpses (including one he digs up), while trying to understand what he is up against. There are betrayals around every corner. And the author tantalizes readers by coming close to giving Harry the happy ending we feel he deserves. But, though he's not in the police any more, Harry will always be a policeman, and that defines his actions.

Don't think you can start Phantom and put it down again - this dark thriller is totally engrossing and, as always, I look forward to whatever Jo NesbÝ offers his multitide of worldwide fans next.

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