Originally published in Norway in 2009, The Leopard finds detective Harry Hole attempting to forget gruesome memories connected to the depraved psychotic whom readers met in The Snowman (published in the United States in May 2011). After the killer held Harry’s fiancé and her son captive, she decided marrying the detective was too dangerous, and she backed out of the wedding. Weary and emotionally battered, Harry sets about losing himself on the streets of Hong Kong, where he falls prey to an opium addiction while building up an impressive gambling debt to local gangsters.

When Harry’s boss is faced with another bizarre murderer (who selects victims seemingly at random), he sends beautiful detective Kaja Solness to locate and bring Harry back to Oslo. Harry reluctantly agrees, but only after Kaja plays the trump card of his seriously ill father who hasn’t got long to live. Eventually, Harry discovers that each of the murderer’s victims spent the night in a secluded mountain cabin. Now, a seriously sadistic and inventive killer is disposing of everyone who stayed there—and just killing the victims is not enough; a nightmarish torture device from the Congo is employed with diabolical precision. As Harry follows the convoluted trail toward the killer, there are plenty of red herrings to keep him, and readers, off balance.

This taut thriller by worldwide bestseller Jo Nesbø features finely drawn characters and enough twists to continually surprise; it is likely that readers will think they have identified the murderer, only to discover otherwise. Considering all the horrors he has been forced to witness, Harry’s tired, cynical personality makes sense—yet it is his humor that makes him real. There are additional layers of realism and emotional depth to this dark mystery: political infighting as agencies compete for dwindling resources; Harry’s struggle with addiction; and the process of coping with a dying parent. Though it can be a struggle to keep track of the numerous characters, the effort is well worth it. The subplots are eventually brought together in such a way as to satisfy the reader, but leave room for more action from our intelligent (if jaded) hero.

Sandy has worked for small town newspapers and reviewing books for more then twelve years.

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