Review: The Snowman
Title: The Snowman
Author: Jo Nesbø
Publication: Knopf (2011)
Hardcover, 383 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Scandinavian Noir
“Internationally acclaimed crime writer Jo Nesbø’s antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back: in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity.
Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.
Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.
Fiercely suspenseful, its characters brilliantly realized, its atmosphere permeated with evil, The Snowman is the electrifying work of one of the best crime writers of our time.”
The Snowman came out in movie theaters last week. While I’ve heard some mixed reviews about the film, I have yet to watch the film. I can’t say anything except that I am always a huge proponent of reading the book first as they’re probably better. Of course, there are some films that are better than the book (I’m looking at you, The Devil Wears Prada), but I find this to be the exception rather than the rule.
Who doesn’t like snowmen? They’re friendly, fun to build, and no matter your snow shaping skills, they still add a festive bit of happiness to your yard. What if, however, instead of something magical, they were a harbinger of doom, not only ushering in the cold, dark winter but maybe something a bit more sinister?
Jo Nesbø explores this question with his seventh Harry Hole novel. Harry is called to the scene of a missing woman, where the only clue left behind is a pink scarf wrapped around a snowman. Before he can solve it, he and a new detective from Bergen are faced with the possibility that they have a serial killer on their hands. There seems to have been similar cases happening every year for the last 20 years. Harry is the only one on the force who has the training and experience for such as case, and this could be the antidote to his rapidly unraveling personal life. The question is whether Harry is jumping at shadows because he wants, or needs, for there to be a serial killer in Oslo.
This spellbinding police procedure dives deep into gloomy Norweigan weather at the turn of the seasons. It alternates between Oslo and Bergen, a historic waterfront city. It’s filled police procedural cliches: red herrings, alternative POV, and an insatiable detective who will stop for no one. The plot is interesting, but story isn’t really about the twists and turns. It’s found in the characters and the process of the day to day. If the draw to this series was a high octane Nordic adventure, I think the reader will be disappointed.
The true draw to this series is Harry Hole himself (it’s pronounced Hahree Whoule, NOT how you’re thinking). If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’d know it’s the complex characters that draw me into a story much faster than anything else. I saw Jo Nesbø on his book tour to promote his recent novel “The Thirst” before I had actually read a Harry Hole novel. He talked a lot about the character of Harry. How he must cope with his own demons while trying to exorcise others trying to solve cases. His character isn’t one dimensional. He has this constant battle of getting a drink, of getting drunk, of needing a drink. He has a compulsion to not only drink, but to be a bit of an ass.
He’s a complicated antihero, filled with flaws and an irksome personality. He is gruff, surly, and occasionally violent. He’s a functioning alcoholic who is prone to going on benders where he can royally screw up. He’s frustratingly intelligent. He is determined and diligent about his casework. He doesn’t get along well with others, but he isn’t afraid to solicit help to solve his cases. He relies on his own intuition, but he’s not infallible. Harry Hole is a truly fascinating character; there’s a reason this series is so popular.
Recommended for: fans of Tana French, Scandi-noir, antiheros, creepy ass snowman, and a chance to spoil the ending for those who go to the film.
Grade: 4 stars/B
Order your copy here: Amazon
Are you new to Harry Hole**? If so, there are a few ways of approaching reading this series:
1. Read in complete chronological order and begin with The Bat (book 1)
After the second novel, Jo Nesbø outlined and plotted out the rest of the series. I think there was a reason the “The Redbreast” was translated into English before “The Bat”.
3. Read The Snowman (book 7) first and then pick option 1 or 2.
“The Snowman” was my first foray into Harry Hole and while there was some backstory I missed, I had no trouble getting through it. There is some mention of previous events/characters but it doesn’t affect the story.
** For the record, his surname is pronounced WHO-leh, so get your mind out of the gutter you filthy animal.
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