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192 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Leopard - Knocks the spots off the competition..., 28 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Leopard (Hardcover)
`The Leopard' is the new Jo Nesbo novel, and it's one I've been looking forward to immensely. However, I didn't expect it to be quite this length. Clocking in at over 600 hardback pages this is indeed a mighty beast. But: a) was it worth the wait?; b) is it too long?; and c) is it far-fetched? The answer to all three questions is an emphatic `Yes!' So why if it's too long and implausible at times have I given it five stars? Let me explain...

First of all, the book picks-up not too long after Jo's last translated novel `The Snowman' ended. His detective, Harry Hole has gone AWOL from the Oslo Crime Squad. He's still bearing the scars (both literally and figuratively) from that case and is `taking a break' in Hong Kong, where he's addicted to both opium and horse racing. A beautiful police detective, Kaja Solness, has been sent to locate him because his expertise is required in what appears to be another serial killer case back home. Harry initially refuses, but Kaja drops her bombshell: his father is seriously ill and in hospital. And... that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot. The naughty publishers give too much away in their book summary on the inner cover and reveal a big development that is a definite spoiler*.

Once again police corruption plays a major part: the Crime Squad is squaring-up to Kripos in a power struggle over who should handle major homicide cases. The head of Kripos - Bellman - is a fascinating and brilliantly detailed character; a real old-fashioned snake-in-the-grass. You will love to hate him.

The book is packed with plot twists, and in terms of quality/quantity of misdirection, the only guy who can compete with Nesbo is Jeffery Deaver. However, while Jeff's twists are more precision engineered - which is to say contrived - it shows: I love most of Mr Deaver's work, but Jo's plot reversals flow more naturally and `The Leopard' serves up plenty of them. Just when you think it's reached a climax, you notice there's still a third of the book to go and there are more explosive surprises to come - ratcheting-up the tension even further. As I mentioned earlier, it's not grounded in reality at times - but I would contend that at least 90% of all crime fiction is implausible to some extent, so it's not a problem for me.

Harry Hole shouldn't work on paper: he's tough, principled, unlucky in love... and an alcoholic: in other words a veritable walking cliché. Or at least he should be. But in the skilful hands of the author he's an absolutely riveting character - one of the most compelling in modern crime fiction - and so much more than the sum of his parts. He's 100% convincing and Nesbo makes the reader really care about him, and in this book he's put through the wringer more than ever before.

The novel could have used a stronger editor to remove 100 pages without diluting the impact - perhaps even strengthening it - but really, the book is so magnificent and Nesbo is so good that we'll forgive him; the plot scarcely drags more than a little - if at all, simply because there's so much going on in here. If you like a complex plot, `The Leopard' may be right up your street. In short, this is a tour de force of crime fiction: it is brutal and uncompromising and confirms once again that Jo Nesbo is right up there with the modern crime-writing greats, but I agree that it won't be to everyone's taste.

If this is your first novel by the author, I suggest you may be better off reading the earlier translations first (hell, buy and read ALL of them, they're great) as earlier cases - the `Snowman', the `Redbreast' - are referenced in here.

*Also ignore their claim that Nesbo is `the Next Stieg Larsson' (this quote, plastered on the front of the book, is taken from the 'Independent'). The publishers are cynically trying to maximise book sales: he's nothing like Larsson in either content or style - indeed the only common denominator is they're both Scandinavian. I happen to love the Millennium trilogy, but I believe Nesbo is the superior novelist.
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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Feb 2011 11:08:32 GMT
Totally agree about the Larsson thing. Either Nesbo is a far better writer, or his translators are. Larsson is fine, especially the first book, but his writing (I've read English & French translations) is not exactly top notch.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Feb 2011 18:34:14 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Feb 2011 18:34:50 GMT
G. J. Oxley says:
Hi David: Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. As I mentioned in my review of 'The Leopard', I did love the Millennium trilogy, but as a crusading journalist, Larsson wrote with a definite agenda and for me, this sometimes got in the way of the plot. Hope you read and enjoy Nesbo's new one as much as I did.

Garry

Posted on 10 Feb 2011 15:41:53 GMT
ROSIE says:
An excellent review - well written and informative - thank you 'Gaz'

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Feb 2011 22:08:58 GMT
G. J. Oxley says:
Rosie: Thank you very much for your nice comment - you are far too kind.

Posted on 13 Feb 2011 13:56:17 GMT
OEJ says:
Have a 'helpful' from me, Gaz - I'm halfway through this (heavy!) book and loving it. Just hope the second half is as good as the first, because at the moment I'm inclined to suggest that THE LEOPARD is Nesbo's best yet. One minor niggle though, and that's the regular 'name-dropping' of his previous novel THE SNOWMAN. I wish it had been done with more subtlety, or just less often, as it is however it eventually feels like a plug for that book rather than a valid part of any dialogue.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2011 17:51:53 GMT
G. J. Oxley says:
Hi OEJ - thanks for the 'pos. vote!'. I think you could be right - it may be his best book, and although it's enormous it never felt like a chore reading it. If you're halfway through then there's still plenty of great stuff to come. Nesbo's right up there with Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke on the must read immediately list for me. And the good news is that there are at least two earlier Harry Hole novels, two standalones, a short story collection - not to mention his three children's books - still to be translated, as far as I'm aware.

Cheers,

Garry

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2011 18:07:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2011 18:08:12 GMT
OEJ says:
I think the difference between the two 'Harry' characters is that Hole's on the way up, while Bosch.....well, isn't. Similarly, delving into these two authors' back catalogues is different too - Connelly was at his finest in his formative years (the 1990s, basically) and has been a bit hit-and-miss this past decade, while Nesbo has steadily improved since The Redbreast, a story which didn't quite polarise Harry Hole as the reason-for-the-story in quite the same way as he has mastered in his current offering.

Dipped my toe in James Lee Burke's waters, quickly whipped it out again.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Feb 2011 12:34:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Mar 2011 11:17:55 GMT
G. J. Oxley says:
Re Connelly - I agree he's not as CONSISTENTLY excellent as he used to be. I believe part of the blame for this is he's now shifted into two-novels-per-year-mode. However, I think 'Lost Light', 'Echo Park' and 'The Lincoln Lawyer' (all from the noughties) are as good as anything he wrote in the nineties.

James Lee seems to polarise opinion: I introduced him to two work colleagues, one of whom is now a massive fan, while another doesn't get him at all.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 09:36:10 GMT
Burke's books tend to be character rather than the plot driven police procedurals of connelly: if you prefer the latter you probably might not like him. However, I'm a fan of both Connelly and Burke, whose somewhat poetic and lyrical prose style testifies to the fact that he was definitely not, like Connelly, a reporter in a former life.

I would also highly recommend John Connolly, Daniel Hecht and the early Lee Child.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 16:48:26 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2011 16:48:41 GMT
G. J. Oxley says:
Hi still searching: Thanks for your comment, which I believe is aimed at One-Eyed Jack, however I would like to add that my own reading tastes extends across the whole range of what might loosely be described as 'crime fiction'. I love both Connelly and JLB - as you do. With regard to your recommendations, I've read everything by Lee Child, but agree the earlier stuff is better. I'm also a fan of John Connolly but I've yet to try Daniel Hecht.
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