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Chilling - in every sense of the word
on 12 November 2010
The Snowman tells the story of Harry Hole as he becomes embroiled in a sinister serial killer case. Norway is not known for its serial killers, and Hole has a lot to prove to the rest of the police department to ensure that they believe they are dealing with multiple murders. Assisted by mysterious new detective Katrine, Hole can feel the tension ramping up as he tries to solve the case before the snows come - and The Snowman kills again.
Well, after reading the three books that composed The Millennium trilogy, I was looking to continue my Scandinavian crime reading stint and decided to pick up the new Big Thing in the form of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. It was similar, but only to the extent that both works deal with serial killers.
On the plus side, The Snowman is tauter and far less bloated. The story whips along with little clues and red herrings littering the work and leading you towards the inevitable conclusion. In fact, this novel might be worth a re-read - just to check all the details that form part of the clues.
On the negative side, we have a far less charismatic hero in the form of Harry Hole - we're back to the usual stereotype of alcoholic maverick detective, who is determined to solve the case to the point of obsession and losing all of his friends and family.
One thing is very clear: we are not dealing here with a nice story. The Snowman is a terrifying plot device to use - something that is usually so innocent and free from horror. I don't think I will ever, ever want to make a snowman again, especially not after reading passages like this:
"The snow in the garden reflected enough light for him to make out the snowman down below [...] At that moment the moon slid from behind a cloud. The black row of teeth came into view. And the eyes. [...] The pebble-eyes were gleaming. And they were not staring into the house. They were looking up. Up here."
*shudders* Other people might find sections like that a little ridiculous, but for me it brought out all those nightmares you have as a child. Adding in real passages of terror, where the unseen killer commits his murders, just increases the fear factor for me. I had to have the light on last night after reading this into the wee small hours. And I had to keep checking to convince myself that the snow hadn't started to fall.
It was a fairly disposable read, however. Having mentioned a re-read above, I don't think this is a book I would pick up again. It did the job effectively, but it won't stay with me for too long and I didn't like or empathise with many of the characters. In a way, it is incredibly routine, with only the snowman angle lifting it out of the doldrums of mediocrity.
In conclusion, a decent enough way to spend a few hours.