Review: The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

The Leopard
By Jo Nesbo
544 Pages
Published by Knopf

Intrepid (and drunk) detective Harry Hole is back, this time hunting a sadistic killer who is using a horrifying torture device to drown women in their own blood.

The Leopard was not my first foray into Jo Nesbo’s world of Harry Hole, and damn, does that sound horrible. Is there a worse protagonist name ever than Harry Hole? I realize that the book was written in Norwegian and “Harry Hole” may not have the same giggle-value in Norwegian, but wow. Anyway, I had previously read The Snowman and enjoyed it, so I was anxious to give The Leopard a try. After reading the Dragon Tattoo series I developed kind of a thing for Scandinavian crime novels.

And like most Scandinavian crime novels I’ve read, this one is a bit of a slow burn. It slowly peels away layer after layer as the story moves along. The first chapter starts off with a bang – it actually reminded me of something you’d see in one of the Saw movies, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste. I thought it was riveting. And it’s interesting to note that Nesbo’s books aren’t overly violent for the most part. There is definitely some violence and what there is is completely horrifying, but there isn’t a lot of superfluous violence just for the sake of it like you find in a lot of American novels.

Harry himself is a quintessential anti-hero. He’s a detective but he’s also a drunk, a drug user, and an all-around rogue. He is also inexplicably irresistible to his female colleagues and a bit of a dick. He really has no desire to do the right thing, but he feels compelled. He’s somehow likeable in spite of all this, probably because his adversaries are either: a) ten times worse than he is; b) murdering scumbags; or c) both.

The Leopard is on the longish side, as Nesbo’s books tend to be. If you’re looking for a quick read you won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for an engrossing crime novel in the vein of Steig Larsson it’s worth giving Nesbo a try. While his books are lengthy they’re almost always worth the time investment. The Leopard kept me guessing (and guessing completely wrong) right up until the very end. I’m looking forward to more of his books being translated into English.

4/5 stars – I Like It Very Much

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