I think you all know by now that I am fully invested, and moderately obsessed with, all things Nesbo. I've read all the Harry Hole books up to this one, and I even have his stand alone book "Headhunters" that has been made into a movie and is actually coming out next week to our indie theater in town. (I know, I need to get that thing read.)
I've had drama from the very beginning surrounding the order in which I've read the books. The first two have not been translated to English (they probably will at some point, but I've heard they are nothing to get excited over so I wouldn't wait around) and the remaining five have been released in random order. Just...if you want to read them, just make sure you do it right. Otherwise important stuff gets spoiled.
A new Harry book was launched on March 20 in the UK called "Phantom". I've been told by a reliable Harry-loving source that it is sold out there, and won't be launched here until October. Be that as it may, I needed to get down to business and read "The Leopard", a book that had been intimidating me for awhile because of its size.
Synopsis: After all the harrowing events in "The Snowman", Harry has taken a temporary leave of absence from the police force and gone off the grid to live in Hong Kong, eating noodles, doing bad drugs, and running from the Mafia. Slow suicide. He is tracked down by a (beautiful, natch) agent, and coerced into returning home because his father is gravely ill. Oh, and by the way, while you are home Harry, we have this little problem with a serial killer with which we need some assistance. Because Harry is The Man.
Bodies are beginning to pile up, the deaths caused by an array of horrific methods (the worst being a nightmare-worthy medieval instrument of torture called a Leopold's Apple) but all seem to lead back to one night at a remote ski lodge. And as is typical of Nesbo, nothing is straightforward and there are multiple agendas are at work, making a mess of logic and deduction.
But while the killer is heinous and ruthless, and the deaths graphic, this isn't the focus of the story. The reader is instead left with a complex examination of father/son relationships, of loneliness, of broken souls striving to rebuild.
My thoughts: First of all, Mr. Nesbo, you've got my loyalty. I'm going to read every book you write no matter what. I just wanted to get that out there.
But I felt like this one slipped a little.
First, it was just way too long. It wandered all over the place, and while I am fine following Harry down every dark alley, I think it would have been fairly easy to cut a good hundred or two pages. It was not as tight as his other novels.
The bad guy(s)...there is never really only one...were arms-length caricatures more than the bleeding and damaged creatures we have seen in earlier books. Despite Nesbo's ever-expanding creativity in the ways one can bite it, it all became background noise to the deeper issues churning beneath the surface. Most of those issues revolving around the guy we never really tire of, Harry.
The predicaments that Harry found himself in were over-the-top. I can't even begin to number the crazy things that happened to him, but did include almost dying in an avalanche, the Leopold's Apple up close and personal somewhere in the Congo, some self-mutilation, and saving people from being pushed into a volcano. There were multiples times when I found myself saying "Really? REALLY?!". It felt like Nesbo was trying to outdo himself. And that really isn't necessary.
But I do love Harry's journey, his suffering, his attempt at healing himself, his making peace with this father, and his enduring love for Rakel. Despite the wandering, Nesbo is adept at ratcheting up the adrenaline as the end closes in, causing heart palpitations and sweaty palms. As I said, I am invested, I will read this series until it is no more, but my hope for "Phantom" is something resembling the earlier installments.
3.5 out of 5 stars