The Leopard by Jo Nesbo: Has Harry Gone Down the Hole?

In what is apparently the eighth instalment of the Harry Hole series, Harry is in Hong Kong. He’s smoking opium and owes the Triad a great deal of money. Kaja Solness has travelled to Hong Kong on a mission to find Harry and bring him back to Oslo. They have a serial killer; a brutal, savage and bloody serial killer and they need Harry’s help to stop him. But is Harry Hole in any shape to return? More importantly, does he want to return?

When we left Harry at the end of The Snowman, he was an emotional wreck. The toll of catching the Snowman was a harsh and personal one. Harry has gone underground in Hong Kong to stop thinking about everything.

Jo Nesbo has done his research well on the hunting of serial killers. He has obviously studied the current and past experts who worked with the FBI to catch, among others, The Green River Killer and Ted Bundy.

The toll in real life is horrible. FBI Profiler John Douglas, who helped police catch Gary Ridgeway (the green river killer) and Wayne Williams (Augusta Georgia child murders) and more, had a real life breakdown from the stresses of having the ability to “put himself” in the minds of his suspects. He has written about his experiences. His first book, Mindhunter (1995) and his second, Into the Darkness (1997) explained how he worked and the toll it took on him. Although he didn’t realise how much of a toll until the stress affected his health.

Douglas has been portrayed in fiction several times because of his high profile. I don’t think that Nesbo’s Harry Hole is necessarily Douglas in Norwegian clothing. But he has done his research well enough to build Harry as a real person who suffers horribly for his innate talent. He also suffers from guilt; guilt over his family and for the fellow police officers who have died while working with him.

In The Leopard, two women have been murdered. They have nothing in common apart from their gender and the fact that both died from drowning on their own blood.

Harry’s old boss Gunnar Hagen is desperate for Harry to solve the murders. The reason for this desperation becomes clear when Harry meets Mikael Bellman the head of Kripos, a new crime division that Bellman wants to make into Norway’s Scotland Yard. Bellman’s “empire building” is brutal and single minded. Hagen wants to solve the case so the Ministry of Justice doesn’t make Bellman the “Napoleon” of Kripos.

As more bodies turn up and more victims are brutally murdered, it becomes a race against time, Bellman and his Kripos team and the mole that Harry appears to have on his team. And of course the killer.

Meanwhile, time is running out for Harry’s father Olav who is dying in the hospital from cancer. Harry is also still fighting all his old demons as an alcoholic and he is now smoking illegally smuggled opium as well.

As the battle for catching the murderer changes sides and targets, Harry turns to Katrine Bratt (whom he worked with in The Snowman and [SPOILER] who also had a nervous breakdown near the end of that book) to help him on the case by using the old military search engines to find information about suspects and victims on the internet.

In this book everything appears to be at stake, Harry’s father’s life, Harry’s sanity and his love/hate affair with the Crime Office which is in danger of being made redundant by Bellman and his pet project of Kripos.

The Leopard has a very international feel to it. Hong Kong, the Congo and Australia all figure into the plot. As Harry, Bellman and Harry’s team continue to peel away layers that will reveal who the killer is, Harry’s boss Hagen is searching for ammunition to use against Mikael Bellman to keep him from taking over his job.

Jo Nesbo has outshone himself in this book. Death, drugs, alcohol, stress, doubt and guilt all play a huge part in this novel. The final race to catch the killer will have you on the edge of your seat with tension.

One hell of a great read!

Jo Nesbo, Norwegian Maestro.


About Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

8 thoughts on “The Leopard by Jo Nesbo: Has Harry Gone Down the Hole?

  1. Hey nice one Mike. I’m currently reading The Snowman after thoroughly enjoying the Norwegian film Headhunters. Once I’d heard that Scorsese was adapting the book I had to get to the source before seeing the film. I have to say, I was reluctant at first but Nesbo knows how to capture you. I had to avoid some of your review due to spoilers but once I’ve finished The Snowman, I’ll give this a go. Thanks for the heads-up man.

    1. Well, hello Matthew! How nice of you to follow me over to WordPress! Nice to see you. I don’t think you can go too far wrong with The Leopard, it did have me on the edge of my seat! Cheers mate! 😀

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