The SNOWMAN, Jo Nesbo

(Harry Hole #7)
By Jo Nesbø

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.

Richard comments
Reading Donna Leon or David P. Wagner is easy as I know some Italian. Even reading Alka Joshi was fairly easy the meaning of the foreign phrases she used was easily learned or discerned. But Norwegian might as well be Greek or Russian. Let me explain a bit further, thankfully, Jo Nesbo does not use idiomatic phrases but the place names, even the names of the people threw me for a loop. The Norwegian just felt awkward and distracted me frequently.

However, the book itself…good. A New York Times Bestseller though I am beginning to think that New York Times books’ readers must be an intellectual class above the norm. They buy and enjoy foreign phrase-filled books much more than the average reader. Perhaps I should consider the alternative: I am less capable than the average NYT reader. Grrr, what an unbearable thought.

However, the book weaves a suspenseful tale. Murder, gruesome scenes and gory descriptions tell the tale interestingly. Police inspector Hole has a solid reputation though blackened for some reason, never clearly spelled out but it could be that he is less than acquiescent to the commands superiors give him. But everyone acknowledges that he is a successful case closing detective, somewhat a la the sleuthing characters in Donna Leon or David Wagner’s books.

The difference between Nesbo and the others is the degree and frequency they deal with erotic scenes. Joshi to Wagner, each is romantic, approaches romantic scenes with sensuality but not bold eroticism. Nesbo hangs ‘the high road’ and does it often.

But as a detective story, The Snowman is solid. Clues are given frequently but just as frequently, so are new suspects which Nesbo makes it sound more plausible and then even more so until finally, Detective Hole blows it out of the water with a logically explained conclusion. On to the next suspect, boom out of the water again. And again, and each time the clues make the suspect more and more likely.

Eventually, Nesbo draws his last straw making one think the story is now going to conclude. But no again, Nesbo throws his readers for another enjoyable and suspenseful diversion. One more set of murders…suspenseful, attention-holding, even frightening, then the hero, Hole clashes with the murderer himself, and it is a gruesome clash. Hole has parts of his body slashed, cut away but ….ahhh, read the book.

Nesbo writes well, keeping the reader’s attention solidly though the Norwegian names and phrases were distracting. He takes the reader along for a ride of suspense, gore and horror but maintaining the sleuthing-crime novel genre throughout. He lays out clues, offers suspects and describes murder scenes vividly so the reader can prematurely draw their own conclusions. Then he pulls away the carpet with rational and logical explanations. Wonderfully adept manipulation of readers but in a way that readers enjoy the ride.

A good story that got better and better right to the very end.

I would recommend the book but beware comparing it with other NYT Bestsellers or other crime writers who emphasize foreign locales, like Leon and Wagner.


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