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.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Publication Date: May 10, 2011 by Vintage Books
I can now honestly say I don’t really understand the hype surrounding Nesbo’s work. Having previously read Midnight Sun and Blood on Snow, I was used to the simplistic writing style and classic crime noir storyline of Nesbo’s books, but The Snowman was not only a bit laughable in plot, but blatantly misogynistic as well.
This was my first full novel from the Harry Hole series. I picked up the first book, The Bat, a few months ago, but ultimately gave up after not gaining interest in the first 100 pages or so. I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for those new to the series to start with The Snowman and after seeing that the movie adaptation was being released in October, I thought it was a good time to give Nesbo another chance.
Initially, The Snowman starts out strong. It’s written very much as a police procedural type of crime thriller and Harry Hole is the typical lone-wolf, alcoholic, brooding detective stereotype that seems to be popular in this type of crime fiction. Despite my misgivings with the stereotypical narrator, I was happy with the pace of the plot for the first third of the novel and felt invested enough to see how things would play out.
Unfortunately, the pacing slows down DRAMATICALLY for the second half of the book and the amount of red herrings that begin to be thrown at the reader becomes much too excessive and just plain frustrating. Like many other readers, I figured out the murderer much too soon and I was disappointed with the reasonings and lack of depth behind his decision to become “the snowman”.
I’m not unfamiliar with the typical police procedural, male-dominated crime thrillers out there, and there are many that I actually really enjoyed. What really concerned me with The Snowman was the blatant sexism and lack of any real female characters (all seem to either die, need saving, or suffer from a nervous breakdown). Women are used in Nesbo’s books as pawns in the plot and while it’s nothing new for a book to focus on an angry man murdering women because he hates them, there is SUCH a lack of attempt to make any of the women in this book more than just flighty and promiscuous side characters and that was ultimately the most disturbing part of the book for me.
Also, the sex scenes were excessive (and not often necessary to the story) and so dominated by the male gaze that they were laughable. Why is it that all women (even the ones that could be smart, well-developed characters all on their own) throw themselves at the men in this book? I was baffled by many of these interactions and didn’t understand what was to be gained from them at all.
I would recommend picking up any of Tana French’s novels instead for those interested in police procedural thrillers. For anyone who doesn’t mind a little bit of fantasy thrown in with their serial killers, Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters or The Shining Girls are also fantastic.