If ever there was an author you’d think twice about upsetting, crossing or agitating – Jo Nesbo’s your man! I mean that in the nicest way possible of course, he has an amazing natural ability to create some of the darkest and vile nemeses you could ever wish to meet – or should that be not to meet?!
In a follow up to “The Snowman” – which incidentally was my top book of 2010 – Inspector Harry Hole is back in action as Norway is gripped by yet another Serial Killer. With numerous references to “The Snowman” – reviewed here – throughout the novel, it would be advantageous (if at all possible) to take a step back and read the chilling account of Hole’s previous case. It’s not by any means necessary but it does give a greater understanding of Oslo’s finest detective as he attempts to silence “The Leopard”.
Translated by Don Bartlett, “The Leopard” is the sixth internationally acclaimed novel featuring Inspector Harry Hole. Nesbo has certainly come a long way since his debut novel was published in 1997 in Norway.
“The Leopard” for me had a very different feel to it than “The Snowman” – it’s not as psychological, it won’t play on your mind and for the most part won’t give you nightmares! This is more your stereotypical case of bad versus evil, police hunting down the killer- all the while set against an intensely atmospheric background.
One has to question how Harry Hole survives his daily ritual of drugs and booze. If he’s not drinking Bristol Sherry, or bottles of Jim Beam then he’s smoking Opium and chain smoking his way through cartons of duty free cigarettes. There’s no denying it, Harry Hole is in a dark place and has hit the self-destruct button – the problem is he really doesn’t care.
Following the devastating events of “The Snowman” Harry Hole has left Norway to the relative safety of Manila – at least that was the plan. However, a lay off in Hong Kong finds our intrepid Inspector drinking his way to an early grave, experimenting with hard drugs and in serious debt after risking everything on a single race at horseracing’s Happy Valley. With his debt sold to the triads, Hole is on the run living day by day in the squalor of Chungking Mansions.
Although reticent to return to Norway, a third murder, that of a female Socialist MP, and his father’s illness entices him back – not one to pass up a thrilling investigation, he wastes no time in upsetting the balance of power and making enemies.
The murders are sadistic and cruel throughout and leave very little to the imagination – but this is why we love Nesbo! Utilising a metal spherical contraption known as Leopold’s Apple, the killer takes great delight in torturing his victims both mentally and physically – one wonders if Harry has finally met his match this time round as things don’t always go quite to plan.
As with previous novels, there’s so much depth to Nesbo’s narrative that it’s never a simple case of shoot, kill and detect. Personal trials and tribulations withstanding, the Scandinavian police procedural is taut, as is the prose, and one never feels let down upon reaching the conclusion. Set over 600 pages of majestic writing, “The Leopard” is a complex fast paced crime novel with all the hallmarks of the noir tradition.
A simply divine book, bounteous characterization and a plot to die for – Nesbo has done it again. This is one book you won’t want to miss in 2011.
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