The Snowmanby Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett
Scandicrime is a very big thing these days. It was always there – after the American Ed McBain, the next big writers of police procedurals were from Sweden. Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö wrote the ten Martin Beck novels from the mid 1960s onwards – see my write-up of the first in the series here. Our current obsession was fired by the success of Henning Mankell’s Wallander books (and TV) and now many more fine Scandinavian crime writers are being translated – we can’t get enough of them, which brings me to Jo Nesbo…
Nesbo is Norwegian; a former stockbroker and journalist, he’s a singer and songwriter in a band, and author of a children’s book called Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder apart from the bestselling series of novels we’re getting to know.
We chose The Snowman as it was everywhere thanks to being chosen for Richard & Judy. It turns out to be the fifth in the series, so the lead characters are well established. Harry Hole is an inspector in the Oslo police, and has been trained in profiling by the FBI but has yet to encounter a serial killer on his manor. When a boy finds his mother missing, it’s not long before the team find out that there have been more missing women over the years, and then another woman goes missing. It all gets very complicated very quickly, and right from the off, we are fed a series of red herrings before it finally becomes clear who the killer is. Complex it may be, but it was easy to get hooked and we all sped through the book’s 550 pages.
Harry Hole is another classic maverick detective, damaged goods, an alcoholic. He lives for his job, but still has an on-off relationship with his ex girlfriend and her son. In this novel, he gets a new sidekick, Katrine Bratt, a young, attractive woman with hidden depths and is slightly reminiscent of Stieg Larsson’s Lizbeth Salander in a less extreme way. Together they make an interesting pairing. Hole’s other colleagues meanwhile fulfill all the different stereotypes usually present in a novel’s police department.
Personally, I’d have preferred to start at the beginning of the series, as there are references to events in earlier books, and characters who come to the fore in this one are, according to one of our group who read the one before this one too, set up in place – which suggests that Nesbo has a story arc planned for the books. This left our group wondering about the ‘mould man’ – would he turn out to be more than a expert in dry rot, in the next!
We felt that the pacing was slightly stop-start, but the genuinely scary scenes largely made up for that. I for one, would happily read more, although I think I prefer Wallander to Harry Hole, as Hole seemed to have an emptiness in his heart for me in this novel – but one reading just one, it’s hard to get to know him well. (7.5/10)
Of course there are loads more Scandinavian crime authors I’ve not had time to visit yet too, including the Icelander author Arnaldur Indridason in my TBR pile, and my late mother really liked Hakun Nesser, whom I’ve not read either.
Do you have a favourite Scandinavian crime novelist? Your recommendations are welcome.
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I bought my copy. To get one from Amazon UK, click below:
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.