Mystery and intrigue

2012-08-01 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Phantom

Jo Nesbo

Harvill Secker

THIS is the seventh in Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo’s series featuring his detective, Harry Hole.

In the early tales, Harry performed extraordinary intellectual and deductive feats, while his brain was so pickled in alcohol that it was a ­wonder he could think at all. ­Currently, having dried out and left the police (under a cloud, of course), he’s abandoned Oslo and its painful memories and, in lucrative security employment in the Far East, is in peak mental and physical form.

And yet, here he is back again, drawn by a case that’s already closed, and denied police permission to reopen the investigation — after all, what is it but the shooting of a young junkie by a fellow addict?

But Harry, summoned by ghosts from his own past, and by his lost love and family connections, is impelled to probe the circumstances of the case: he strikes out on his own and begins following a trail of violence and mysterious disappearances.

Are the Oslo police really ignorant of these things, or are they somehow complicit in them? Why does there seem to be a conspiracy of silence? And who is it that, from the moment he stepped off the plane, has been watching his every move and tracing his every call?

As always, Nesbo writes well: the complex plot never flags or loses the reader and the narrative is elegantly paced — the whole enhanced by Don Bartlett’s adept translation.

Bartlett’s prose conveys Harry’s habitual melancholy without mawkishness or sentimentality. so that when this turns to the deepest possible sorrow in response to ­tragedy it is completely believable. and we really wonder, this time, if Harry will survive to see through ­another adventure. Very good indeed.

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