The Leopard by Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett

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The Leopard by Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: After two women are murdered in identical circumstances, Harry Hole finds himself once again at the heart of a serial killer investigation despite his determination not to get involved. A fantastic piece of crime writing from the brilliant Jo Nesbo, packed to the brim with a gripping, gory and chilling plot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 624 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 978-1846554001

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Still completely traumatised by 'The Snowman' investigation, Inspector Harry Hole has fled Norway for the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong where he is happy to lose himself to debt and drugs. Back in Norway, two women are found murdered by the same gruesome means and Crime Squad believe they have another serial killer on their hands. Harry's boss, Gunner Hagen wants his best detective back, as he believes Harry is the only person who can find the killer, after two months with no leads. Despite being persuaded to return to Oslo due to his father's illness and with no apparent interest in the case, Harry's detective instincts take him straight to the murder scene when a third woman is found dead and he cannot resist getting involved, especially when the current investigative team seem to be making such a mess of it.

Soon back on Crime Squad Harry finds the three murders appear to have no apparent link, but with his small team and ex-colleague Katrine Bratt, he quickly discovers that each woman spent the same night in a remote mountain cabin in the Norwegian countryside and that their killer clearly has their sights set on the remaining guests.

The Leopard is the sixth in the Harry Hole crime series by Jo Nesbo to be translated by Don Bartlett into English and is a fantastic read from start to finish. Nesbo's writing is modern, punchy and highly accessible, and where he really scores is his ability to write in this manner, but with such subtlety that he never gives much away. Naturally, I couldn't help constantly guessing who the killer might be (even writing a list at one point) and realised some way through that Nesbo clearly knows his readers are going to try to outwit him, so goes to great lengths to head you off in the wrong direction. What at first might seem an irrelevant conversation or scene should not be ignored. Although this can be a little frustrating, and I did kick myself for allowing myself to become distracted on occasion, it also made me appreciate just how talented Nesbo is at keeping his readers guessing and made me determined not to miss any other pertinent clues.

The plot itself is intense, complex, vast and gruesome, spanning the entire book (there's little room for irrelevancies), and is extremely hard to predict. I really had no idea where Harry and the investigation were headed from one chapter to the next, despite my brain working overtime trying to figure it all out, and I was consistently surprised by the turn of events, but completely satisfied by the outcome. Every chapter is a joy to read, despite turning my stomach a few times, and it's such an exciting read I honestly found it hard to put down even though I knew I would benefit from taking the time to digest what I had read. There are also some excellent scenes where it is not exactly clear who is present, which although exasperating are incredibly clever and add to the suspense and mystery.

Harry Hole, like the plot of The Leopard, is an intense, complex and intelligent man. He is also an alcoholic and is clearly broken in some respects by his previous investigations, as well as being deeply troubled by his personal and family life. I've heard him referred to as a cliché before, fitting the alcoholic detective who has barely anything else in life other than his job mould, but this for me makes him more interesting and human. Described as a notorious maverick Harry is somewhat of a nightmare to work with, arrogant in the extreme and a fierce breaker of rules in his determination to solve the case in his own way, ignoring orders from above and the internal politics of the police force. Despite all this, he is very likeable and it was easy to root for him at every turn, particularly as he maintains his quick wit, giving us something to laugh at even in the worst of circumstances. How Nesbo manages to inject humour into such a disturbing read I will never know.

There really is nothing not to like about this book, but my only word of caution if you are new to Nesbo, is to read the rest of the series first, as there are some spoilers along the way that may irritate some. Other than that full marks go to Nesbo for writing what has to be the most complex and satisfying book I have read in a long time, and easily the best book I have read this year. I only hope he hasn't reached his peak with The Leopard and will continue to impress me and his hordes of fans for many years to come.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If you like the sound of this book you may also enjoy Jo Nesbo's The Snowman, The Redeemer and Nemesis or any of Stieg Larsson's books.

And now for something surprising from Jo Nesbo.

Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole Novels in Chronological Order

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