2011; 530 pages. Book Seven (out of 11) in the Inspector Harry Hole series New Author? : Yes. Murder-Mystery; Police Procedural; Scandinavian Crime Noir. Overall Rating : 9½*/10.
Birte Becker, wife of Professor Filip Becker, and mother of a teenage son named Jonas, has disappeared. Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo police suspects foul play, although the possibility of her running off willingly, say, to be with a lover in an affair, cannot be dismissed, since there’s no sign of a forced entry or of any violence in the Becker household
The only thing out of the ordinary in the case so far is Birte’s pink scarf. Someone, maybe Birte herself, has draped it around the neck of a snowman in the front yard. The snowman’s nothing special, a carrot nose, a stick for an arm, and some black stones for the eyes and mouth. But curiously, Jonas says he didn’t build it.
So who did? And why?
What’s To Like...
The Snowman is a police-procedural murder-mystery set in the greater Oslo, Norway area. There is some jumping around of the timing – 1980, 1992, and 2004 (the present) – but it doesn’t get confusing because Jo Nesbo alerts you to any change in the “where and when” at the beginning of each chapter.
Harry Hole is your standard antihero protagonist. He drinks too much, smokes too much, has his moments of arrogance, and can be lippy to superiors and bossy to subordinates at ill-advised times. But he’s also the best detective on the police force, and there’s even a possibility that the murderer is deliberately baiting him with clues and messages in order to make this a personal duel.
The storyline is laid out perfectly, and I greatly appreciate that in any murder mystery. There’s a slew of characters to meet and grow suspicious about, and numerous red herrings to trip up Hole and the rest of the police department. Indeed, both they (and I) frequently jumped the gun in thinking they’d caught the killer, only to have to eat their words when it turned out to be not so. These “false trails” are essential for keeping a 500-page novel from suffering from slow spots, and it worked nicely here.
There are some neat details. Harry’s (and/or the author’s) musical tastes are excellent, with some quick nods to Slipknot, Michael Stipe (REM), the little-known Jason and The Scorchers, and the overture to Also Sprach Zarathustra. You’ll learn about Fahr’s Syndrome (wiki it), and the obscure winter sport of Curling. I also became aware of a culture twitch in Scandinavia – apparently they like to pride themselves for being too civilized to have a serial killer running around. Such savagery is confined to the more primitive parts of the world, like America.
The ending might be called "standard" – the real killer is found out, but escapes for an action-packed finale. Yet it was done so well, I didn’t mind that it was formulaic. There is some cussing, as would be expected in a gritty police procedural, and some sex, so you probably shouldn’t let little Jimmy and Susie read The Snowman. The is a standalone novel, as well as part of an 11-book series.
“Anyway, where did he get hold of this loop gizmo? If it isn’t approved, I mean?”
“We can start looking there,” Harry said. “Would you check that out, Skarre?”
“I said I don’t believe all that stuff.”
“Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. I meant to say: Check it out, Skarre. Anything else, Holm?” (loc. 1643)
“You didn’t like Starship Troopers?”
“That’s because it’s a crap macho film.”
“It’s satire,” Harry said.
“American society’s inherent fascism. The Hardy Boys meet Hitler Youth.”
“Come on, Harry. War on giant insects on a remote planet?”
“Fear of foreigners.” (loc. 2208)
The Snowman sells for $9.99 at Amazon, although I picked it up when it was temporarily discounted. The other books in the series go for $5.99-$13.99. Jo Nesbo also has a series of e-books for kids, all involving, of all things, farts. These go for $6.99-$7.57.
If every baby was a perfect miracle, life was basically a process of degeneration.” (loc. 6922)
I’ve been wanting to check out Jo Nesbo’s series for quite some time now, since I’m a huge fan of Scandinavian Police Procedurals, and the Swedish contingent thereof – Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo, are sadly all dead or retired.
It is every bookaholic’s delight to discover a new author that fully meets his hopes and expectations, and Jo Nesbo was exactly that sort of find for me. The writing, translating, and storyline in The Snowman were all great, and I’m thrilled to pieces to have a whole new series, with a burnt-out protagonist and a detective team that isn’t above squabbling, to solve cases alongside.
9½ Stars. Time to hit my local library and see how many Jo Nesbo book/e-books they have.