The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø

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 The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø download or read it online for free here
 The Snowman (Harry Hole #7)
by Jo Nesbø
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.

Fiercely suspenseful, its characters brilliantly realized, its atmosphere permeated with evil, The Snowman is the electrifying work of one of the best crime writers of our time.

“What is worse? Taking the life of a person who wants to live or taking death from a person who wants to die.”

“I´ve read that it´s the smell some carnivores use to find their prey. Imagine the trembling victim trying to hide, but knowing that the smell of its own fear will kill it.”


This is a re-read for me, it is the 7th in the Harry Hole series set in Oslo, Norway. It is now a major film with Michael Fassbender as Harry, I admit to being intrigued to see how this novel translates into this movie! 
We have the usual gloomy and downbeat portrayal of Norway, its weather and its people. A young boy finds his mother missing and goes outside. There he finds a snowman has appeared, adorned with a scarf belonging to his mother. Oslo police have Harry investigate with his new partner, Katrine Bratt. As Harry digs into the case, it emerges there are eleven missing women through the years and not a body to be found. Harry concludes that there is a serial killer on the loose, an analysis that his superiors dismiss. That is until Harry gets a letter from the killer looking to lock horns with him. And so ensues a battle of wits in a macabre story with numerous twists. My re-read confirms to me that this is one of the better books in the series, although The Redbreast is my favourite. Looking forward to seeing the film. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.
I was invited to read 'The Snowman ' by the publisher, prior to its release in cinemas in October 2017, and have given an honest review in exchange.

As a little girl I used to love the first snowfall of winter, and the fun that accompanied it, like sledging down hills with complete abandon and snowball fights, but best of all was building a snowman. Great effort went into making this little guy look good - a borrowed cap and scarf from dad - a few buttons from mum's sewing box - however, the snowman in Jo Nesbo's thriller doesn't have such pleasant connotations, on the contrary, it elicits feelings of abject terror!

November in Oslo, and the first snowfall of the year covers the gloomy landscape. A young boy discovers his mother missing and ventures outdoors to look for her, but all he finds is his mother's pink scarf wrapped around a snowman in the front yard that appeared mysteriously the day before. And so begins Harry Hole's seventh investigation in this extremely popular series.

Investigations reveal that numerous women have gone missing over the years, all of them on the day of a first snowfall, but their bodies have never been found. As even more go missing, Harry receives a letter from the perpetrator wanting to play games, wanting to pit his wits against Oslo's most famous serial killer hunter. Let the games commence!

Harry is up against an extremely intelligent killer, and the tension never let's up for a minute - the depressingly somber landscape only adds to the fear. The plot is complex, clever, and leads to many suspects, each of them perfectly plausible, but all is not what it seems, and there are many twists and turns before 'The Snowman' is finally revealed. Another winner from Jo Nesbo.
So I can’t remember if I’m watching TV... or maybe I’m listening to some NPR podcast or something, but I hear about this movie called The Snowman directed by the same guy who did Let the Right One In and based on a novel by this Jo Nesbo dude. Hey! Jo Nesbo! I know that name! I’ve seen his books floating around on Goodreads. I’ve seen people I know, love, and respect reading, loving, and recommending his books.

But I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. I started thinking about all the other times I’ve tried to read a mystery/thriller book from a series. Patterson, Coben, that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo guy, Connelly, etc. I always start strong, but those books have never really done it for me. They’re fine, but they never really go beyond fine. I like books that are beyond fine. In fact, from now on, when I really like a book, and someone asks me what I thought about the book I read and liked, and I have a chance to respond, and I also love commas, anyway, I’m going to start responding by saying, “Man, that book was beyond fine.”

Ask me what I thought about Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. Go ahead. I’ll pause here and give you a chance to ask.

Oh, I’m glad you asked. I thought this book was beyond fine. A solid four stars. I don’t know five stars would be. Maybe extraordinarily beyond fine. Exceptionally beyond fine. Incrementally beyond fine.

The Snowman is beyond fine.

This is the seventh book in the Harry Hole series, and it’s the first book I’ve read, but I never really felt lost or confused. There are some references to prior events and characters, but things are explained well. You can read this one without starting with The Bat. I hear The Bat isn’t all that great anyway. It’s below fine, I guess.

Nesbo weaves together a very intense page-turner with characters that matter and twists that actually make you pause and drop the book for a sec before you can continue. I blew through the second half of the book. In fact, I woke up early this morning just so I could read the end of the story... and I am not a morning person. Thank God for coffee. Can I get an amen?

I’m excited for the movie. I’m excited to read more Nesbo. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was caught up in this thing, and the ending did not disappoint. Oh, and on a side note, I liked all of Nesbo’s music references. He threw out names like Ryan Adams and Gillian Welch. He’s got good taste. Well, he mentioned Slipknot a few times, too, so maybe not.

Check this one out. Let’s hope the movie is just as good. Or at least beyond fine.
”Jonas stood up on one of the kitchen chairs and peered out. And, sure enough, there on the lawn in front of the house was a snowman. It was, as his mother had said, big. It’s eyes and mouth were made with pebbles and the nose was a carrot. The snowman had no hat, cap or scarf, and only one arm, a thin twig Jonas guessed had been taken from the hedge. However, there was something odd about the snowman. It was facing the wrong way. He didn’t know why, but it ought to have been looking out onto the road, toward the open space.”

Instead, it was looking at YOU.
Just an odd thing, maybe a joke by the neighborhood kids, but unsettling, nonetheless. They didn’t see anyone making the snowman. When Jonas’ mother turns up missing, he finds the pink scarf he’d given her as a present, wrapped around the snowman.

***SHIVER*** what does that mean, Harry?

A strange case like this rapidly becomes several connected strange cases as more women go missing, and a snowman appeareth. There can only be one guy in Norway who has the experience to take on a demented serial killer.

    Harry Hole


    The Snowman

Katrine Bratt is Harry’s new partner. I know of two partners he has had since I started reading the series, and they are both...dead. Harry might be at the center of any storm, but the debris always seems to land on those around him. Katrine is intelligent, alluring, and sexy, but more importantly, she really seems to understand Harry, which most of the time Harry has a hard time getting Harry, so there is hope that she could prove useful. Harry explains the job as he sees it:
”’I would guess you’re fairly proud of your investigative talent.’[Katrine asks]

‘You mean the rat-catching gene? The innate ability to lock up people with mental illnesses, addiction problems, well-under-average intellects and well-above-average childhood deprivations?’

‘So we’re just rat-catchers, then?’

‘Yep. And that’s why we’re so happy when once in a blue moon a case like this lands on our table. A chance to go big-game hunting, to shoot a lion, an elephant, a fucking dinosaur.’”

One of the things I really like about Nesbo is that he always works in books, movies, and music into his novels. This conversation that Harry has with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Rakel, cracks me up.

”’The Rules of Attraction?’ Harry repeated, taken aback. ‘Have you got it?’

‘You said it was on your list of most underrated modern films.’

‘Yes, but you never like those films.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘You didn’t like Starship Troopers.’

‘That’s because it’s a crap macho film.’

‘It’s satire,’ Harry said.

‘Of what?’

‘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.’”

Harry always seems to be a half step behind the Snowman. One of the problems with serial killers like The Snowman is there is nothing readily apparent that ties them to their victims, so basically you have to wait until a new victim appears and hope the killer makes a mistake. It becomes all too personal though when Rakel finds a note on her windshield.
”We’re going to die whore!”

We’re? What the heck does that mean? Rakel is moving in her latest boyfriend, a doctor named Mathias, but she keeps ending up at Harry’s apartment warming his bed. One of those situations where she can’t live with Harry, but she also can’t seem to live without raising and lowering his flag either.

She fits the killer’s profile.

Harry is truly up against a diabolical killer this time. A man targeting women who have strayed...but how does the killer know these things about these women? Time is of the essence, and red herrings send Harry and his team scrambling down looping paths that get them no closer to the killer. The case becomes all too personal as Harry’s new partner, Katrine, and Rakel become targeted by…the Snowman.
Jo Nesbo, as always, kept me turning pages. I groaned with frustration when promising leads turned out to be dead ends. In a case like this, nothing can be ignored because the investigators are so desperate for a viable lead. In the end I had to hope that Harry would weave enough clues together to form a noose around the killer. Highly recommend. I can’t wait to see one of my favorite actors, Michael Fassbender, bring Harry Hole to life on the big screen.
Here's the thing about the recent popularity of Scandinavian writers and if you're a Nordic Thriller aficionado you couldn't care less about the distinction: the novels are depressed, somber, filled with ennui, a lack of humor, with flawed characters if not suffused with a strong tendency towards determinism; in short, whether you're reading Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, or Jo Nesbo you are likely reading Literary Naturalism. 
If you live in Scandinavia you might consider this par for the course, ennui is imbued into the populace (as it is also reflected in the works of prominent Russian writers - Anna Karenina comes to mind). Just as we continue to struggle here in the States with our history of slavery and the resulting racial tensions, so do Europe and Scandinavia struggle in coming to terms with Nazism and the Bolshevik revolution (More than a few reviewers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Nordic writers' pre-occupation with Nazism). And yet, the rise in popularity of these Nordic thrillers here in the States is puzzling given our strong tendency towards literary Romanticism. We like for the good guys to win, we like emotion, we like our heroes (as opposed to anti-heroes) we enjoy free will, and in general consider ourselves in control of our own lives.

Having said that: there is excellence in Literary Naturalism. The above doesn't mean we can't enjoy a well written novel, an intriguing mystery, a flawed anti-hero, a well crafted story written in the style of literary Naturalism. It doesn't mean we can't enjoy the works of Jo Nesbo. I did.

In Jo Nesbo's words: "I come from a family of readers and story tellers." With a librarian mother and a father who sat before the fire and told the kids stories they wanted to hear (each repetition bringing something new to the tale) Jo's foundation was carved in stone. Again, in his own life story we sense the determinism filtering into his life: he wanted to be a soccer star but an injury put a quick stop to this; with a dreadful feeling of fate guiding his life he entered the military in the hopes something would happen (what happened was "Self-Discipline"); thinking he might want to be an economist he entered the world of finance which he abandoned as well; someone told him he could play guitar (he only knew 3 chords) and he formed several bands, Di Derre being the most successful; and finally he wrote (on an airplane to begin with) and he never stopped.

The Redbreast is Jo Nesbo's third Harry Hole (pronounced "Hooleh") novel (the other two not being translated for a US audience as of yet) and is Nesbo's claim to fame. So, this is where we start. Yes, the books should be read in order! For an American audience, Harry Hole can be likened to Harry Bosch; he defies authority, is an outcast within his own organization, is best left alone to do this job (his office is at the end of the hall), is more of an anti-hero than a hero, has trouble with his romantic life, lives alone, has a fierce propensity for justice (as opposed to the Law) and once let loose is like a pit bull with a bone fastened to his jaws. But perhaps the most compelling reason why Harry Hole has such a following is Nesbo's devastating characterization of what exactly comprises a flawed hero. Upon reflection, American hard-boiled writers don't come close to accomplishing the same. This is not too dissimilar to the way Nesbo sees himself.

Bjarne Møller, my former boss, says people like me always choose the line of most resistance. It's in what he calls our 'accursed nature'. That's why we always end up on our own. I don't know. I like being alone. Perhaps I have grown to like my self-image of being a loner, too....I think you have to find something about yourself that you like in order to survive. Some people say being alone is unsociable and selfish. But you're independent and you don't drag others down with you, if that's the way you're heading. Many people are afraid of being alone. But it made me feel strong, free and invulnerable.

And...ah, yes, there is the matter of plot! So how do we justify this decided streak of fate/determinism within the novels with Nesbo's apparent mastery of plot? The two seemingly ought to contradict each other. On the one hand, we have Nesbo's almost Shakespearean tendency to cast characters as marionette puppets on the strings of fate (the very opposite of plot), while on the other hand we are riveted by the very complex actions and reactions made by Harry Hole during his investigations (Nesbo is a master at not adding anything superfluous to his novels). Perhaps it is an unholy marriage between the two that transfixes us. His plots are intricate, very complex, the seemingly irrelevant details exposed throughout the novels become larger than life as the story closes, and they can weave through time, forward and backward, as the story unfolds. But, with a little alacrity, we can remember we are reading Naturalism and so it isn't always Harry Hole making events happen, but rather the reverse, it is the events that move Harry Hole. Again, it is a matter of preference but in Nesbo's case it is done with utter expertise as a writer.

The exposition/setting is often Scandinavia: the weather is somber, the descriptions grey-like, the people absorbed with alcohol and withdrawn, if not bundled and sequestered. And yet, the dialogue and scenes are full of references to other millieus', continents, languages, and cleverly hidden philosophical references that speak to a widely cultured audience (as opposed to American writers of this genre who rarely venture beyond the borders of their land, if not their own State). And as with plot, there are no superfluous details. Everything in the novels matters and Nesbo does not forget even the tiniest detail to which he's made a seemingly furtive reference earlier on in the story. This is one of the biggest reasons why I love Jo Nesbo.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast and am currently reading the remaining Harry Hole novels. I remain intrigued by events left undone (such as the fate of our undiscovered villain in this and other stories). You'll just have to read the novels to find out more.

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