The Snowman by Jo Nesbo is the seventh book in his Detective Harry Hole series. I didn’t read the other ones, but it didn’t make any difference to me. I read it as a standalone novel, and it worked. The book follows Detective Harry Hole as he chases down a serial killer. The setting of the book is Oslo, Norway, during the winter season in the early 2000’s.
The Snowman begins with a flashback when a teen boy is asked to wait in the car by his mother as she meets her lover in midst of a snowfall. After that, the story shifts to 2004 and once in a while goes back to flashbacks. Harry Hole is a definition of a functioning alcoholic but he is a very good detective. He has been trained by the FBI to find serial killers because such crimes are very low in Norway. A strange case about the disappearance of the mother of a young boy named Jonas is connected to several such disappearances through the years.
Harry is introduced to his new partner Katrine Bratt. She is alluring, quick, and intelligent; they get along well from the start. Katrine seems mysterious at times. Harry and Katrine are similar to each other and have mutual respect. Harry is living alone after his breakup with his girlfriend Rakel and her son Oleg. She is now in a new relationship with Mathias who works in the Anatomy department. She still is a part of Harry’s life, and Harry is like a father figure to Oleg. He has lost two partners before Katrine. He is broody, drunk, and to some extent beaten down by his experiences.
Harry tries to catch the killer dubbed as The Snowman; the killer builds a snowman near the victim’s house that faces the house instead of the street. This killer changes his patterns frequently, and apart from the Snowman at the homes of the victims, there isn’t much in terms of evidence. Finally, they seem to be getting close, but all hell breaks loose when they realize that Katrine might be Snowman. She is captured and admitted to a psychiatric ward. All evidence is against her, but when one more body is found, Harry starts to doubt whether Katrine is the real killer or not.
The descriptions of Oslo through Harry’s eyes give the readers an insight into a new country and its culture. The way the novel is written, you are transported to a different place. The atmosphere of the story reminded me of a little of gothic novels where the atmospheres are part of the plot. Harry’s character is not perfect by any means, but he always tries to do his best, and he is an extremely good detective. He has a drinking problem that he tries to keep under check, he is impulsive and gets frustrated easily at times, but he is still likable.
The book is dark, gritty, and eerie almost from the beginning. I think after reading this book seeing a snowman might freak me out a little bit. The pace of the novel is good throughout, but as it gets close to the ending, especially after Katrine is suspected of being the Snowman, the suspense goes up a notch. The identity of the killer came as a surprise to me. There is a chapter that is from the killer’s point of view that gives insight into his mind, and it is creepy. The killer has issues with women that stem from his mother’s dishonesty.
The book has its thrills and suspense. It is much darker than I had anticipated, even in terms of characters, not just story-wise. I have never read anything written by author Jo Nesbo before, his writing is descriptive, and there is a lot of attention to detail. The characters are interesting, and so is the plot. It never becomes predictable. I liked reading this book; it is a perfect suspenseful read.
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