The Leopard (Nesbø novel)
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|Set in||Norway; episodes in Hong Kong, Rwanda, Congo (city of Goma) and Australia|
|Publisher||Aschehoug (Norwegian 1st ed.)
Harvill Secker (English 1st ed.)
Published in English
|20 January 2011|
|Pages||624 pp (English 1st ed.)|
|Preceded by||The Snowman|
The Leopard is a crime novel by Norwegian novelist, Jo Nesbø. Its Norwegian title is Panserhjerte, which does not directly translate to The Leopard; it rather means something along the lines of "armoured heart". Moreover, "leopard" refers to the stealthy tread of the killer in the book, while "armoured heart" is what Harry Hole himself gains by his experiences. Panserhjerte is also a Norwegian term for Constrictive pericarditis. The Leopard is the eighth novel featuring Nesbø's crime detective, Inspector Harry Hole.
Following the traumatic events of the previous novel, The Snowman, former police inspector Harry Hole has exiled himself in Hong Kong. Kaja Solness, a new Norwegian Crime Squad officer, tracks down Hole and asks for his help in investigating a series of possible serial murders in Oslo. Solness convinces Hole to return when she tells him that his father, Olav, is seriously ill and will not live much longer.
Harry returns to the Crime Squad unit to find it engaged in a power struggle with Kripos—Norway's national crime investigation unit that investigates organized and serious crime. Its power-hungry head, Mikael Bellman, seeks to have all Norwegian murder investigations placed under his agency's jurisdiction. From the very moment of landing in Norway, Hole finds himself the target of Bellman's hostility—though the head of Kripos is not averse to obtaining the results of Hole's investigation and taking credit for them.
Harry is reluctant to become involved in the murder investigation until a female MP is found murdered in a public park. Contrary to Bellman's conclusions, Hole believes that the MP's murder is connected to the two other murders. He and Solness, teaming up with Harry's former colleagues at Crime Squad, start trying to find the killer, working under cover since the MP murder case is officially assigned to Kripos. While working together, Harry and Kaja find they have much in common and are increasingly drawn to each other, leading to a tempestuous love affair.
Hole and Solness discover that all three victims had stayed at the same ski lodge some time previously, all on the same night. Harry deduces that the murders are part of the killer's attempts to cover up his trail. Suspicion initially falls on a man known to have been at the ski lodge at the time, but he is eliminated from the enquiry when it is discovered that he has been murdered by the killer.
Though still no love is lost between them, Harry forces Bellman to include him on the Kripos team. Harry then finds that another person had been at the ski lodge at the time of the first three murders. However, that person is in Australia and she refuses a request to be bait for the killer. Then Harry and Solness instigate a sting operation to draw out the killer, which fails and almost costs them their lives when the killer outsmarts them.
Following a discussion with The Snowman, from his previous case, Harry believes that the murderer is someone whom he knows and who has become close to him. This person is arrested but, unfortunately, Harry's instincts are proven wrong. It is then discovered that the real killer has fled to the Congo, where Harry and Solness pursue the killer. There Harry—and separately Solness—are kidnapped by associates of the killer. Harry manages to escape and, following clues given by one of the killer's associates, finally confronts and kills the murderer at the lip of a live volcano.
Later, at the funeral of his father, Harry spots his former lover, Rakel, and her son, Oleg, who have fled from Norway following the events of The Snowman murders. At this short meeting, Harry manages to confirm that they are happy away from Norway. It becomes apparent that Rakel is the one great love of Harry's life—that no other woman can truly replace her, and that Kaja's deep love for Harry and her aspiration to build a life together with him are doomed to failure and to heartbreak. The poignant farewell scene is reminiscent of a similar scene at the end of The Redeemer, where Harry ended a budding affair with Martine, a Salvation Army woman with whom he had become involved.
Harry returns to see The Snowman, who is gravely ill and who feels some remorse for his crimes. It is tacitly suggested that Harry helps The Snowman to commit suicide out of remorse for having failed to follow his father's request for him to perform euthanasia.
By the end of the novel, Harry has accumulated many new traumatic memories and haunting "ghosts"—having been very near death several times. He mutilated his own face to get free of the killer's fiendish trap. He shot an African mercenary who turned out to be a young boy. He twice saved Kaja's life by ruthlessly sacrificing somebody else's: during an avalanche, while resuscitating Kaja, he allows another police officer to suffocate to death and, at the final showdown in Africa, while shooting down the murderer, Harry inadvertently kills another woman who was held hostage. Though not facing any charges for these deaths, Harry is well aware of what he has done and is determined to return to Hong Kong for good.
Compared to the other novels in the series, The Leopard has a more cinematic and action-oriented style, taking place across three continents. The Leopard also contains excessive violence. Nesbø has expressed regret for a couple of scenes in the book.
One of the main characters, Kaja Solness, may be a reference to The Master Builder, one of Henrik Ibsen's most well known plays. The play centers on a man named Halvard Solness, whose son is engaged to a woman named Kaja. Nesbø is likely to be familiar with the play, which is a classic of Norwegian culture (and of world theatre in general). The writer has not, however, made any statement on the possible connection between Ibsen's character and his own.
The Leopold's Apple device that is a central feature of the novel is an invention of Nesbø's that stems from a childhood memory of accepting a dare to eat a whole apple while it was still attached to the tree.
- Andrew Anthony (11 March 2012). "Jo Nesbø: 'I am a vulture'". The Observer. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Mark Ronan Blog
- "Jo Nesbø Says He Was 'A Bit Annoyed' With Stieg Larsson Comparison On Book Cover". TrustNordisk. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2013.