I've been reading a tonne of Scandinavian mysteries over this mat leave -- it's not that they are mindless, that's not what I am trying to say, but they do wonders for my tired brain, especially now that the RRBB is moving around like a maniac and I am spending a lot of my time just chasing him down. Anyway, I finally finished Jo Nesbo's The Leopard -- for me, these books are easy reads, one-nighters, that kind of thing, but this book is over 600 pages long; it's an investment.
When the novel opens, Kaja Solness hunts Harry Hole down in Hong Kong where he's gone to disappear after the toll catching The Snowman took upon him (a novel I haven't read yet). He's thin, addicted to opium, and refuses to come home even after she tempts him with a case only he can solve. But it isn't the crime that brings him back to Oslo -- his father is dying, and Harry can't bear to stay away. There's a new "sheriff" in town: a crass, crooked and unfailingly asshat-like boss of Kripos (which I am assuming is their national police force) named Mikael Bellman who threatens, not only Harry's success in solving the case, but his career in general. Yet, none of that matters to Harry -- brash, intelligent, strong -- he's James Bond with a drink problem, otherwise known as your prototypical hero in these kinds of books, and yet, like Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, you root for him regardless.
The gruesome nature of the central crime -- the killer takes his victims lives with something called a Leopold's Apple, an instrument of torture that punctures (24 times) your face and throat so you drown in your own blood -- stumps the officers, and as soon as Harry joins Bellman and Kripos, they start to get somewhere. Like any good mystery, there's red herrings and twists and false leads and impeccably dangerous situations galore. There would have to be to keep us entertained for yes, like I said, 600+ bloody pages. You could cut a third of this book and it would still be a great read -- there's a lot of extraneous stuff here that could have been pared down, that would have helped the book race along instead of plodding in some places.
Regardless, there's wonderful desolate scenery that takes place in the far-reaching snow-bound Norway that I found truly fascinating. Ski lodges that are sitting ducks for avalanches, that sort of thing, that add a certain nuance to the plot and characters. Of course, the crime gets solved and, of course, the criminal punished and I'm glad I read the whole book because there was a moment half-way through where I considered just skipping to the end because 600 pages!
I have Norway covered already via Karin Fossum, so Nesbo doesn't count for Around the World in 52 Books. I need to find some Finnish mysteries!