A young boy awakes on a snowy night to discover his mother gone and a strange snowman has been built in his garden wearing his mother's scarf. When the police investigate the disappearance and delve into the files, they discover an alarming amount of young women have vanished over the years. From that starting point the book becomes a fast paced spine-tingler as dark as an Oslo winter as the tension mounts in the hunt for the serial killer known as The Snowman.
This is Jo Nesbo's fifth crime novel to be translated into English featuring the Norwegian detective Harry Hole. For some reason the first two books in the series have not been translated, although there is a rumour that they will be. Harry Hole (apparently it should be pronounced HEU-leh in Norwegian) should be a walking cliché; he is the typical maverick loner, a brilliant detective who has a problem with authority. He not only struggles with finding the killer, but also with alcoholism, a new female colleague who is more than a match for him, the feelings he still has for his now ex-girlfriend, and bosses who would rather have their detectives be less of a PR nightmare. That Hole works amazingly well as a complex, fully rounded character is testament to the skill of Nesbo’s writing (don’t believe any hype that says Nesbo is the next Stieg Larsson – Nesbo is the much better writer) and the work of Don Bartlett in translating from the original Norwegian.
Nesbo's books are always gripping and complex, and this is no exception. The Snowman is a long (550 pages) novel, ambitious in scope, and touching on moral and social issues such as parental responsibility combined with a very gritty narrative and horrifically violent crimes. It is also to my mind the best novel Nesbo has written to date.
Nesbo’s next Harry Hole novel, The Leopard, is due for release here next year.