Monday, July 11, 2011
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
One has to ask oneself why Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbø would create a mystery series with a protagonist named Harry Hole. Even allowing for the idiosyncracies of translation, this is a character with something to prove. He is teetering on the edge of a hole, which is growing larger the longer he works for the Norwegian Police Force on serial killings. He struggles with alcohol addiction, is separated from his wife and her child, and is accused by his colleagues of seeing serial killers in every new murder. But he also has a celebrity of a sort: he is the only member of the Norwegian police force to have trained with the FBI in Quantico, VA; he has worked briefly on serial killings in Australia; and he is a sought-after TV panelist and personality. He is therefore a large target, both for the resentments of his lesser-known colleagues, but also for excitement-seeking women and…serial killers looking for a challenge.
The Snowman is the first of the Nesbø oeuvre I’ve read, although it is also his most recent novel to be translated into English. I should also say I’m a real fan of dark Scandinavian mystery series like those of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Helene Turston, Karin Fossum, among others. These series tend to feature grisly sex crimes along with buckets of blood, and more than one corpse. In this particular offering, Nesbø creates an intricate and complicated decades-long mystery in which a dozen people are murdered before the police understand what they are dealing with. By this time, Hole has become the man everyone (including the killer) is hoping will be chief investigator.
Young, married women with children disappear and a snowman made from a season’s first snow has been found in the vicinity of their disappearances. The women are found sometime later, dismembered usually. What links them is what Detective Inspector Harry Hole must find out.
The audio version of this title is a fine way to enjoy the mystery. It is narrated by Robin Sachs in 15.5 hours. If that sounds long, remember that this is a complicated tale, but Nesbø keeps it taut and moving along. If I had one complaint, it was that the author seemed reluctant to allow the story to end, and wanted to explain perhaps more than was needed. But for those who crave a dark tale of woe for long winter nights and appreciate the peculiarly Scandinavian sense of dread, this will be a very good introduction to the work of Jo Nesbø.
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