I first came across Jo Nesbo’s books when he was billed as the “next Stieg Larsson”. Advertising like this tends to make me turn away and I wasn’t impressed. However after our daughter read one of his novels I thought it worth a try. What are his stories like? Well if you imagine a mixture of an old fashioned whodunnit with a deeply flawed hero, some good suspense and well crafted endings then you are beginning to understand just how good his books are.
Initially I was worried that the long Scandinavian names and places would make the story difficult to follow. This was true in one or two cases but you do get used to it and the reader, Sean Barrett, is good enough so that you always know who is speaking just by his diction.
There is a surface similarity between both the books which I listened to.
- Long hidden motives which go back many years.
- Flawed heroines who are both brilliant as well as tragic.
- Harry Hole, the detective, with his alcoholism, brilliant mind and condemned to always fall short in his private life.
- Unusual and cruel murder weapons.
These are the novels which I listened to:
The Snowman. A two part novel it is 14-1/2 hours long. The plot is complicated and there is terror here. You can feel your heart beating faster and wish the killing would be over with. I found it fairly easy to identify the villain but the motives and the story behind the killings was well hidden. The characters are written in great detail and eventually you will come to know them very well.
The Leopard. This followed on from the Snowman and at 19-1/2 hours this is a long audio book. For this novel Jo Nesbo has seemed to step back a little from some of the terror which you felt in the Snowman. Somehow he makes it more removed. I found it impossible to guess the villain or the motive. There are still bits of the tale where I don’t understand the reason why things happened and in some ways this is a challenge with audio books. You can’t easily go back and re read to check your first impressions.
Challenges. There are parts in both books where the scenes are switched very quickly. Although it is usually easy to identify who is speaking you really need to be paying attention to avoid missing the change for maybe the first few minutes of the new scene.
Well worth buying. These are good challenging whodunnits with suspense and terror here. Some clever twists, flawed characters and good endings.
This article was written by Mike Holly who is thinking of booking a Holiday cottage in Carcassonne.