Phantom – Jo Nesbø

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NesboSo this was our first foray into the dark and dreary side of Scandinavian fiction and, well, wow. Just wow.

There is just so much going on here. Dying guy talking. Women in love. Russian/Albanian mafia. Chemistry. Drug smuggling. Drug use. Alcoholism. Corruption. Blackmail. Sex. Kidnapping. Obsession. Fathers and sons. Duct tape.

It was all so engrossing. The way Harry Hole was introduced was brilliantly done for a reader who hadn’t read any of this author before and didn’t know who Harry was or what he looked like.

The driving around Oslo and throwing out place names was much like Robert B. Parker and how Spencer moves around the Boston area. The names were so foreign and it was a nice little respite to slow down and try to pronounce all those names. We didn’t need to know where they were — they added color, and locals were sure to love it, just as we love reading Todd Borg and following his characters around Lake Tahoe.

None of us knew how real the author’s depiction of drug life was, but if it is even half true, how utterly depressing. And then to create a super spiffy new drug, just yikes.

So many interesting and well-written characters. Harry, the mom, the son, Gusto, the girl, Cato, the pilot, the chemist, the knife guy, the step-brother, the burner, the politician, Mikael, Beate,

Whether or not our group liked this book ran the gamut from someone giving it 5 stars to someone else declaring that it shouldn’t have been translated from the Norwegian in the first place.  That always makes for an interesting discussion!

Favorite characters – Harry and Martine were named as favorites, while Joan didn’t LIKE any of them, Harry included.

Least favorite – Gusto, the smug dead bastard, Oleg, Bellman, Rachel, Turls, Isabel, and the chemist.

3 stars

Please see the sidebar for a list of next year’s books.

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Dakota – Martha Grimes

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DakotaThis was the second book by Martha Grimes with the Andi Oliver character. Some members of our group made the effort of reading the first book in the series, Biting the Moon, just to try and understand the second. It didn’t really help. They found the animal abuse scenes very disturbing. Members of our group agreed that they know what happens in the meat production industry in this country, but they also don’t want to know.

So, Joan never finished this book. But, luckily, no one really liked it so she didn’t have to pull up pithy quotes and whatnot. Generally speaking, our group didn’t like it, didn’t finish it, or found it to be a vehicle for a heavy-handed political opinion.

That being said, everyone agreed that it was very well-written and that Ms. Grimes can indeed tell a story.

The mysteries of who Andi is, why someone is trying to kill her, and why someone is trying to get information from her are never cleared up and this book just seemed to add to those mysteries. It was a little disappointing to go through all that violence and not get much of a payoff.

Favorite characters were Andi, the donkey, and Dakota, the horse.

Least favorite characters were the Bailey family, particularly the brothers, Granger, and the Klavans.

 

2 stars