Despite being number 7 in the Harry Hole series, it didn’t feel like I needed to have read the first 6 books in the series to understand Harry or how he worked. The Snowman was a gripping story and it had enough threads and veins of deception and criminal intent to keep the book more than interesting.
The book opens with the reader being privy to a wife and mother who is so enamoured of her lover’s skill between the sheets that she visits him leaving her 11 year old boy in the car. It is winter. Snow is on the ground and as her lover is nearing his climax he looks out the window and sees a snowman looking in.
Mom goes back to the car and chats with her son who tells her, “I saw him.”
Mom panics and asks, “Who?”
“The snowman,” he answers.
End of the first chapter and we’ve already been given a clue that this book is going to be good.
Years later a young boy’s mother goes missing and a snowman outside their house is now wearing Mom’s scarf. The present day murders are just beginning.
Jo Nesbo is another of the recently “discovered” Nordic authors that are being translated into English since the world found the late Stieg Larsson and his Millenium trilogy. Like Larsson, Nesbo writes about the crime arena and follows the main protagonist whilst they struggle to find the killer.
Of course the main difference is that Nesbo’s protagonist is an Inspector with the Norwegian (Oslo) police department who had training with the FBI on serial killers and since he’s caught one is the resident expert on the force. The fact that he is always on the look out for serial killers does cause some friction within the police force and with his colleagues. Larsson’s dynamic duo were a reporter and a social inept with incredible computer skills.
The one thread that runs through the entire book is infidelity,or promiscuity, and the results of both in terms of pregnancy and affects on relationships. There are other various threads that stem from the promiscuity vein, guilt, suspicion, secrecy and the fear of being caught out.
There was not one character in the book that I did not feel some kinship to. Even the murderer and the vast majority of other suspects were rounded characters that if you could not empathise with, you could at least understand.
Hole himself is fascinating and a protagonist that you can really get behind. Nesbo has come up with hero that is a real as you or I. He appears to be addicted to the chase and capture of the criminal. He is also still in love with his ex Rakel, despite the fact that she has “moved on” and is going to be moving in with a new partner.
In Harry’s investigations he will uncover facts and suspicions that will touch everyone who is on the crime team, including himself and his family.
Nesbo weaves a web of such complexity that it could be easy to lose track of where all the strands of the investigation are going. But everything is wrapped up with an enviable dexterity by the author every bit as dexterous as his hero’s chasing down of the killer.
There are enough false starts and confusing clues to keep the reader second guessing, although I will confess that I’d worked out Harry’s mysterious colleague’s secret just before he did (but only just).
The book moves at a breakneck speed from start to finish and I cursed every time I had put the book down for any reason. I read the 500 words plus book in two days and felt as though I had been on every step of the investigation with Harry and his small team.
Great book, great writer and another example of the surge of “Nordic authors” that have invaded the crime novel genre. Author Jo Nesbo has another stalwart fan and I’m now off to find the other 6 books in the Harry Hole series and anything else by Herr Nesbo.
I don’t, as a rule, use a star system. But I will give The Snowman a “5 snowmen out of 5” for pace, plot and police investigation.
Read it, you won’t regret it.
- Warner Bros Wins Auction For Jo Nesbo Novel ‘The Son’ (m.deadline.com)
- Scandi-Crime? (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- Ranking Jo Nesbø (avidmysteryreader.com)
- REVIEW: Phantom – Jo Nesbø with trs. by Don Bartlett (avidmysteryreader.com)
- Nemesis (thejkreview.wordpress.com)
- Jo Nesbø: ‘If Salman Rushdie had been Norwegian, he’d have written a thriller’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Breakneck plot makes for an addictive ‘Phantom’ (triblive.com)
- MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: PHANTOM by Jo Nesbo (bookpeopleblog.wordpress.com)