The Leopard (Harry Hole #8), by Jo Nesbø

Nine stars

By crafting arguably the most intense of the Harry Hole novels to date, Nesbø puts the reader in the middle of an intense murder investigation and search for another horrific killer. After suffering greatly at the hands of the The Snowman, a serial killer from a previous novel, Hole is hiding out in Hong Kong, with little interest in returning to his native land. Kaja Solness, newest member of the Crime Squad within the Oslo Police, is sent to coax him back, explaining that the Squad has come upon a potential new serial killer whose methods are horrific. Solness is only able to convince Hole when she reveals that his father, Olev, is dying in hospital. Upon his return to Norway, Hole realises that the Crime Squad is in a significant power struggle with Kripos, the national police service, which investigates serious crimes. Its head, Mikael Bellman, has no love loss for Hole and tries to contain the former investigator. Hole only becomes involved in the investigation when a Norwegian MP is killed, at which point he is convinced her death is closely related to the other two murders. Working undercover with members of the Squad, Hole begins poking around and determines that there is a common denominator, a cabin at which all the victims stayed on the same night. Working closely with Solness not only creates great workplace chemistry, but allows Hole to get closer to her on a more personal level, even if it backfires for a time. When the Squad’s antics are uncovered by Bellman, they scatter and Hole is eventually brought on to work with Kripos as a consultant of sorts. Hole and Bellman concoct a sting operation at the cabin with one of the potential victims who’s fled to Australia. However, when the killer outsmarts everyone, things take another turn for the worse. An arrest by Kripos of the potential killer goes horribly wrong when an airtight alibi is given and Hole is left holding the blame. It is only when Hole visits The Snowman in prison that he obtains a means of approaching the case that might help. After using that advice, Hole cracks the case wide open and learns just how sinister this serial killer is prone to be, using something called a Leopold’s Apple to assist with slayings. With time spent in Congo as well as throughout Norway, Hole and the rest of the characters weave a thrilling tale matched only in Nesbø’s other wonderful Harry Hole thrillers.

The progression of the series is masterful on so many levels. Hole becomes more despondent as the books progress, digging himself deeper into his own personal isolation chamber, though his character is such that readers can find many parallels or likeable aspects. Nesbø is certain to allow much growth in his characters and builds on Hole’s complexities throughout the series, as well as weaving storylines from past novels into each subsequent one, which forces the reader to be sharp and use the power of recollection. As with many of the novels, the former love of Hole’s life, Rakel, makes an appearance and pulls on his limited heartstrings in such a way that he cannot shake her, no matter how hard he tries. There is even some personal growth on Hole’s immediate family front, where both sister and father play a limited by significant role in the larger narrative. Readers who enjoy the series will likely use this book (and its predecessor) as the standard against which all other series novels are judged. Stellar work keeping the story moving and the reader hooked throughout.

Kudos Mr. Nesbø for always finding new ways to impress your readers. ‘What will Hole do next?’, sits on the tip of my tongue when I begin each new novel.

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