Another romping tale of bloody murder in Norway, another serial killer on the loose and Harry Hole is the man to catch him. Oslo police aren't sure how he's killing his female victims; Hole has to be brought back from the hideaway he ran to after a near nervous breakdown following his heroics in The Snowman.
Dragged reluctantly back from Hong Kong where he's added opium smoking to his longstanding alcoholism, Hole is rapidly involved in a police political struggle - does his department keep responsibility for such crimes or will the Kripos take it away for good? The lead Kripos, Bellman, doesn't like Hole and dosn't want anything to stand in the way of his career progression. Sadly for Bellman, neither he nor his men are any match for Harry as a detective and the Kripos become increasingly more devious and vicious towards a fellow cop - to the point where suspicion turns their way. Is a rogue policeman, even one of Bellman's thugs, involved?
As matters develop, and as bodies pile high, a connection is found by Hole - and a lead that looks like the killer has been found, only for hopes to be dashed. In the meantime there's a trip to darkest Africa to learn of a gruesome murder device, ski treks through night-masked snowscapes, near falls over precipices - and that's all without mentioning a love triangle and some nasty blackmail when Bellman finds Hole's opium stash.
Fimally we have Hole going back to Africa and to one of the bloodiest dénouements that Nesbo has managed to date. As a climax to a thriller this is expertly done and I could imagine Tarantino grabbing The Leopard for his next film. Unless the ghost of Sam Peckinpah wants to have a bash.
The action is absorbing, the pace is relentless. The Kripos dimension means Nesbo sends us down less false trails than usual - and the book is better for it. If you're looking for a thriller as a Christmas present for those who like intelligent writing with gross violence, this is the book to buy.