Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo *****

In the small country of Norway, Mikael Bellman of Kripos (think FBI) is in a jurisdictional battle with Harry Hole of Crime Squad (think NYPD). The Leopard by Jo Nesbo is  a finely constructed fractal with interesting complexities at every level, so both men are also interested in detective Kaja Solness and she is torn between attractive brutality of Mikael and the angst-ridden ambivalence of Harry. Thus far this could describe any of a hundred ordinary murder mysteries, but this Norwegian thriller is anything but ordinary.

 Jo Nesbo is a novelist in the pattern Dickens - many important characters and significant subplots, but in the limit, it all fits together into one cohesive narrative, nothing out of place, and nothing extra. No cheap, irrelevant red herrings or zombie subplots. What a pleasure to read a novel with such depth and mathematical beauty that the reveals can be dispersed throughout without slowing the pace.

So what is this book about? It is a murder mystery; a serial-murder mystery; a brutal, psychotic, torture serial-murder mystery. The torture murders are a bit much for me and I would NEVER go to see a movie of this book, but the descriptions are a good balance of brevity and detail to get the idea across without dwelling on gore and agony. Most of the murders happen off-screen and are later described by through forensics.

The murder investigation climaxes over and over, as suspects are discovered, cleared, and, sometimes, discovered again. The careful reader will anticipate some of the reveals, but others are so convoluted that I doubt any readers put the clues together until the pattern is disclosed. Without spoiling the fun, I can assure readers that the clue are there.

One of the best mysteries and another reason to follow Nordic thrillers.

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