Among other far off places investigations have drawn him to are Australia and Thailand. Although great crime drama, the feeling lingers that Scandinoir is more authentic when anchored in Scandinavia. Most of The Leopard was played on home turf.
Not that life was much less stressful for Hole on a compact and congested stretch of land close to mainland China. The grizzled investigator has taken to gambling and owes the Triads money as a result of Harry's luck. Moreover, knowing his drink addiction could not be overcome, his way of dealing with it is to find a new addiction – opium.
In the midst of his self induced haze he is visited by an Oslo cop, Kaja Solness, Her becoming his lover takes a while but for now her task is to entice him back to Norway to help trap a serial killer whose method of murder is a spiked ball placed in the victim’s mouth. Any attempt to free oneself and the spikes erupt. It is a fiendish device causing a painful and terrifying death. The type of thing most people would expect never to come across in the course of their lives unless they find themselves in a Stalinist or fascist torture chamber.
Harry, despite his legendary expertise, is not enticed by the lure of catching Norwegian serial killers: let the Oslo cops do their own work. Police authority doesn't much appreciate him anyway. They will claim his successes while sneeringly regarding him as one of life's losers. But the news that his father is seriously ill is too great a temptation to resist. With a heavy heart he departs Hong Kong for the wintry streets of Norway.
The first two victims are young women, each with dozens of puncture wounds in their mouth. The pressure really mounts when a member of the Norwegian parliament too is murdered. The media really sniff blood and it is not that which the victims excruciatingly drowned in. The hunt for police inefficiency is on.
All the victims have spent a night in a mountain retreat. Apart from that one common thread there is little else to go on. But as ever, the mind of Harry Hole is as penetrating as any spike from a serial killer's ball.
The killer is not the only nemesis Harry has to contend with. Mikael Bellman of Kripos is a constant irritant. An ambitious and covetous pursuer of others' turf, he wants his own agency to take charge of the country’s homicide investigations which leads to friction with the normal police. The battle between him and Hole is persistent but predictable. There really is only going to be one winner from these clashes. Lesson is: big shovel or not, don't dig a Hole - the kickback is worse than that from a horse. And that is without Harry having had much luck on the horses in Hong Kong.
The transnational dimension sees the narrative shift to the Congo. The murder weapon is of African origin. It is in the African state that the simmering tension eventually reaches boiling point.
This is the eighth in the Harry Hole series. Some readers might have tired by this stage, feeling perhaps that things have gone a bit stale. And there have been complaints that this outing has been a tad long, with one reviewer suggesting it needs clipped by around a third of its content. Yet for the aficionado, this is sacrilege for which a blasphemy law suddenly sounds not such a bad idea. At no point in the book did the feeling arise that it was a drag. Nesbo tackles the challenge of length with pace and suspense.
Next stop - The Phantom.
Jo Nesbø, 2012, The Leopard. Vintage. ISBN-13: 978-0307743183
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