"The Leopard" (Alfred A. Knopf), by Jo Nesbo: After finishing Jo Nesbo's latest crime novel, "The Leopard," I rushed to look up whether one of the deadly devices described in it, the Leopold's Apple, is real.
First, I was relieved to learn that it isn't real. Then, I was worried that someone might actually decide to create one. And finally, I wondered what type of guy Nesbo has to be to conjure up something so psychotic.
Whatever Nesbo is (his bio describes him as a musician, songwriter, economist and author who lives in Oslo, Norway), he can spin a good tale. "The Leopard" is meaty, gripping, full of tantalizing twists — and another reminder of why Scandinavian thrillers deserve the long-overdue international attention they are getting.
(Here I shall make the obligatory reference to the late Stieg Larsson and his "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" series. The books' heroine, Lisbeth Salander, seriously made me want to increase the number of piercings on my body.)
Nesbo also relies on a flawed hero in several of his books, including "The Leopard." His name is Harry Hole, a drunken, often drugged-up Oslo detective with a talent for sniffing out serial killers.
In "The Leopard," Hole is dragged back to Norway from self-exile in Hong Kong after the murders of two women who seem to have little in common other than how they were killed. Then, more victims pile up, killed in different ways, and it is up to Hole to discern a pattern, if there is one, and find the culprit.
That's the generic way of describing it, but without giving too much away, I can say that the book also involves the Congo, a deeply troubled father-son relationship, unrequited love, avalanches, sex and Norway police bureaucratic turf wars.
I'd already read "The Snowman," one of Nesbo's previous novels featuring Hole, so I was prepared for many of the references in "The Leopard" that may puzzle newcomers to Nesbo's work. But having read the previous books is no requirement for picking up "The Leopard" — it can stand on its own.
It also may make you never want to eat an apple again.