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The Leopard    by Jo Nesbo order for
by Jo NesbÝ
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've been enthralled by Jo NesbÝ's Harry Hole novels since I picked up the first one released in North America. So I looked forward to The Leopard (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett) with great anticipation. And, though I rather wish the author were not quite so hard on his main character (an alcoholic loner who is also an exceptional cop), I was not disappointed.

In the previous convoluted episode, The Snowman, Harry's partner (attractive, persistent young Katrine Bratt) turned out to be unbalanced, with her own obsessive agenda. She is now a patient in the Sandviken Hospital. His lover Rakel was almost killed by the new man in her life and has taken herself and her son Oleg as far away from Harry as she can get.

As The Leopard opens on a particularly gruesome murder, Harry is smoking opium and losing money he doesn't have at the races in Hong Kong. The Triad has taken his passport so that he cannot leave without paying his debt. Beautiful detective Kaja Solness is sent there by Harry's boss, Gunnar Hagen, to bring him back to find a serial killer. Harry refuses to return until he learns that his father is dying.

Back in Oslo, Gunnar fills Harry in on two murders of young women but asks him to keep his involvement in the case quiet. Turns out the Crime Squad is being edged out of major murder investigations by Kripos at the instigation of its new second in command, Mikael Bellman. The current case will be pivotal in the Ministry of Justice's decision, which might end up being 'bye-bye Crime Squad.'

Gunnar gives Harry a small team, including Kaja, to work in secret. He consults a volcano expert and activates a unique resource - Katrine in her mental hospital - to exploit Security Service search engines (for which 'she, being of unsound mind, cannot be prosecuted'). Though Gunnar has second thoughts about unleashing Harry, and despite all the obstacles Bellman puts in his way and the usual betrayals, Hole solves the case.

Though he doesn't always want to be, Harry is a survivor - he survives both an avalanche and a volcano this time, leaving me to wonder what Jo NesbÝ can possibly confront him with next, and where in the world it will happen. Whatever it is, I can't wait to read about it. If you enjoy complex, horrific thrillers and haven't found this excellent series yet, you have a real treat in store!

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