The Leopard by Jo Nesbo is the sixth in the Oslo sequence featuring detective Harry Hole.
It starts with Harry on a massive bender in Hong Kong. He was going to Thailand but didn’t make it that far. He’s a mess, having rung up large gambling debts and indulging a heroin habit. Because that’s less of a problem for him than alcohol.
Back in Oslo, two women have been found dead with mysterious wounds to the face. The police are fighting a political battle for jurisdiction over murders with Kripos, who are responsible for tackling organized crime. Harry’s boss wants him back to solve the crime and to stick it to Kripos. He sends detective Kaja Solness to bring Harry back.
In turns out that there are more than two murders and the connection between them is not simple. Nesbo serves up several red herrings and twists and keeps the reader guessing right to the end. I loved this. The plot was gripping and expertly handled. There is treachery and intrigue amongst the police and the perpetrator was deliciously complicated. There are lots of threads and none of them are left loose at the end.
It’s in this book that it’s made most clear that Harry’s flawed character is the reason he’s an exceptional detective. Writers are urged to give their characters a flaw to make them human and enable the readers to identify with them. I think it’s true to say that most fictional detectives are flawed and that alcoholism is very popular as said flaw. In the previous books in the series, Harry’s alcoholism is treated in a fairly standard way. He’s an arse and he’s difficult to work with, he’s unreliable and unstable. But he’s a great detective by virtue of persistence and making connections others don’t, so his bad behaviour is excused in favour of his results.
In The Leopard, Nesbo shows how Harry’s flaw is the very thing that makes him great. His addiction is integral to his excellence. At the beginning of the book Harry is on a bender because of the impact his previous case had on him. He doesn’t want to chase serial killers again. He wants oblivion. Harry resigned from Oslo police but they bring him back. At first he resists but he finds he can’t help himself. He has to follow the threads, he has to work out what has happened and who did it. Harry is addicted to solving crimes.
For me, this is the best Harry Hole so far. I really enjoyed it.
Yay! Internet meme time! The latest internet meme that I have found is to list the 15 fictional characters that have influenced you the most. Tricky one this. I find it really hard to remember specific characters. You’re supposed to spend 15 minutes thinking about it but I spent an hour. Also, I’m not sure about what is meant by influential, have any of these characters induced me to think or behave differently? I don’t think so. Some of the lists I looked at seemed to just go for their favourites. So, I’ve gone for the 15 fictional characters that resonated most for me, in the order in which I remembered them:
- Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Sandor Clegane from A Game of Thrones
- Han Solo
- Roy Batty from Bladerunner
- Mendoza from Cities of Gold
- Aragorn from Lord of the Rings (the books not the films)
- Ivy from Soul Caliber
- Lara Croft
- Richard Sharpe
- Eleanor of Aquitaine (alright, historical rather than fictional, but any biography of a person that lived over 1000 years ago has quite a high amount of fiction in it)
- Red Riding Hood from A Company of Wolves
- Lisa Rowe from Girl, Interrupted
- Attia from Rome
- Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse novels
7 women, 7 men, 1 male cartoon character
6 from books, 3 from TV, 2 from games and 4 from films
Who are the fictional characters that stayed with you the longest?
I submitted a short story to Electric Spec yesterday (keep your fingers crossed for me!) and one thing I had to do to get it ready was re-name all my characters.
I have such trouble picking names. I’ve managed to get past it enough to write first drafts, on the basis that I can pick any name and fix it later. But then at some point I have to pick names for the characters that aren’t silly, obvious or cheesy. That’s where I struggle. I find it really hard to just come up with names, whether they are mainstream, fantasy or science fiction type names.
So what makes it so hard? Partly it’s because I think many of my original choices are derivative. I’m easily influenced by what I’ve been reading lately, especially if it’s Iain M Banks or something. And some times they are just naff sounding. I also tend to pick names that begin with R, G, S and T, and have either one or two syllables. There is definitely a lack of variety.
In the end I do get to change them and with the help of a few random name generators I usually end up with names I like. How do you all pick names for your characters?