The only reason I’m intrigued with Jo Nesbø is because his nick is the same as mine and he is probably called Joanna. 😉 I’m kidding, of course not but there isn’t a clue as to “Jo” was short for anything more classy, like Joquain or Jostein (like Jostein Gaarder)? Anyway, rave reviews about his books so I thought I should give it a go and start with his latest book, The Leopard.
The story begins with Hole being recalled by Kaja Solsen, a beautiful female officer from Kripos (the Norwegian special police division) from Hong Kong, where he has fled after his last traumatic case, The Snowman. He live up to his last name as he lives his life out in a ‘hole’ in Hong Kong, evading the triads over gambling debts, self-medicating with opium (so predictable, opium = Hong Kong, China, obvious?) to stop drinking. Lured back by the lovely Kaja with the prospect of seeing his father, Olav Hole, he reluctantly agrees to investigate the case of two women who have been found murdered in the most ingenious way and image so revolting that I couldn’t get the torture scenes out of my head. The only connection between the victims is that they spent the same night in an isolated mountain hostel called Havass Cabin. When another victim, a famous political figure is found murdered with a self-made rope, it becomes clear that the killer is determined to pick off the rest of the guests that stayed in the cabin that night. Harry and Kaja seems to be a step behind of the killer. The media is circling like hungry sharks and Hole finds himself caught in the middle of a police turf-war over power and jurisdiction of Kripos and his crime squad (with so many problems in the police squads, no wonder they can’t catch their killer!). Through it all Harry Hole wasn’t bothered by the power struggle but pursue the murderer at all costs, even if it takes him to the end of the world, Goma, The Republic of Congo, twice, and through the snow filled and potentially avalanche of Norwegian landscape.
Harry Hole is 192m and did not claim to be perfect. In fact he has an alcoholic problem and he gladly lay his fists on his superior if he has to. I didn’t like finding Harry in that situation in Hong Kong but as the book progresses, I warm up to him.
The book has all the key ingredients of a good thriller and layered plots with many red herrings, shifting of goalposts which brought me one of the most unpredictable crime novels I have ever read. What I really like about Nesbø’s writing is that it has a heart. At the heart of the crime, lays destroyed relationships between human beings. Dysfunctional human being who was taunted, humiliated and abused when they were young. Human being who only wants to be loved. Human being who stayed in a dysfunctional relationship. Human being who is so affected by a significant bad memory in their lives that they are willing to kill to redeem themselves. I thank God that not all dysfunctional human beings have to resort to that but that was what Nesbø source of inspiration for the characters in this novel lies.
Since The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was published in 2008, there’s been something of a Nordic noir bonanza in the UK, with every new Scandinavian crime novel, whether good, bad or indifferent, being engulfed in a sticker that says “the next Stieg Larsson”. I tend to roll my eyes and felt the whole thing too gimmicky to my liking. Although in terms of both critical and commercial success, the Guardian said Jo Nesbø is the writer to whom it is the most applicable. I love the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series to bits and feel there will be never be a Scandinavian crime writer that will come close to this greatness because Stieg Larsson had a mission (to expose human trafficking and abuse to women) and wrote his crime series with a mission with well researched facts. At 610 pages for the hardback, and 740 pages for a paperback, The Leopard is a tad too long in my view and bears the shadow of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a little bit more. It drags on at the beginning and it is not until page 514 (80% of the book) before the motive of the murders are made clear.
Because this is my first book by Jo Nesbo, I don’t know for sure how the rest of his novels fare but it’s best to read his novel in sequential order as there are many references to “The Snowman” and the traumatic effect it had on Harry Hole (like his broken jaw), which are spoilers.
I can’t help but to compare with The Girl series (since the sticker “The next Stieg Larsson” actually wants you to do so!) but it is probably unfair as Jo Nesbø is his own man and he is still alive (I didn’t believe that he is half a century years old because he looks 20 years younger than his age!), he will continue to bring great crime novels to the fore. For this reason I will seek out his other novels. It is always refreshing to know someone who used to be an economist and a stockbroker, and a musician, can also write great crime novels. Jo Nesbø is obviously a man of many talents. Highly recommended if you are fan of The Girl series and hoping for a similar quality Scandinavian novels to fix your craving for more.
I’m reading this for Zee’s Scandinavian Challenge and Mystery & Suspense Challenge.
Paperback. Length: 740 pages. Publisher: Vintage 2011. Source: Reading Library. Setting: Contemporary Norway, Oslo, Goma Congo, Hong Kong and Sydney. Finished reading at: 26thAugust 2011. Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
From a hopeless Jo Nesbø aficionados Rhapsody in Books (it was Jill who persuaded me to pick this book up!), she said : Love, love, love Jo Nesbo. There are plenty of fun twists, turns, and red herrings that keep you glued to your seat.
About the writer:
Jo Nesbø (born 29 March 1960) is an Edgar Award nominated Norwegian author and musician. As of September 2008 more than one and a half million copies of his novels have been sold in Norway, and his work has been translated into over forty languages. Nesbø was born and currently lives in Oslo but grew up in Molde. He graduated from the Norwegian School of Economics with a degree in Economics and Business Administration (did I tell you I was accepted as an exchange student to Swedish School of Economics (SSE) but had to turn it down in 2007?). Nesbø is primarily famous for his crime novels about Detective Harry Hole, but he is also the main vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. In 2007 Nesbø also released his first children’s book, Doktor Proktors prompepulver.
Jo Nesbø worked as a freelance journalist and a stockbroker before he began his writing career.