|US mass-market paperback, 2011|
Because Nesbø and Harry Hole are still new to most US readers, I'd like to run through a few general reference points (to which I gave short shrift when trying to introduce the series last March). When I finally return to speak directly about Phantom, it will be to give it a spoiler-free rave, limited mostly to how you can intensify your enjoyment of it.
So. What do you need to know about Jo Nesbø? His name is pronounced 'yoo NESS-buh' in Norwegian but often simply 'Joe NEZZ-bo' in English. He was born in 1960 and trained as an economist. Was a successful soccer player but was permanently sidelined by injuries. Worked for about a decade as a stockbroker by day and rock musician by night (vocals and guitar with the band Di Derre). Best known as author of the Harry Hole novels but has published one stand-alone thriller (Headhunters) and the Doctor Proctor series of children's books.
And about Harry Hole (pronounced, to everyone's great relief, 'hah-ree HOO-lə')? He's an Oslo-based (later Hong Kong - based) police inspector (later ex- or acting), a recovering alcoholic. A loner in general, but capable of deep, loving, lasting-but-failed attachments. Smart. Surprisingly likeable.
There are nine novels to date in the series:
- The Bat
- The Cockroaches
- The Redbreast
- The Devil's Star
- The Redeemer
- The Snowman
- The Leopard
Frequently asked questions begin:
Q: Do the books need to be read in order? A: All things being equal, it's desirable. Advice to US readers: start with number 3, The Redbreast [link UPDATED 5 March 2012], and read the subsequent novels in order, in so far as availability permits. The first two novels are less important to the rest than are 3 through 9 among themselves. The Bat Man is set in Australia and is referred to often in recent Hole books because it establishes Harry as one of the few Norwegians with hands-on experience hunting down a serial killer. (It was the first Nesbø I read, and, although I kept going after that, I find it the least engaging book in the series.) The second, The Cockroaches, is set in Bangkok. All the rest are set principally in Oslo and form parts of various plot arcs that interconnect them.