Book Review: The Snowman

Norwegian author and musician Jo Nesbo, considered the next Stieg Larsson (of the world famous Millennium Trilogy), lives up to his name in this first-rate crime thriller. The Snowman, his seventh novel featuring Detective Harry Hole is an absorbing bone-chilling mystery that sucks you into a labyrinthine puzzle, a conundrum so inexplicable and bizarre by its MO that it can scare the daylights out of you.

The Snowman
It's November, the first snow has just begun to fall, and a young boy Jonas is awakened from his sleep to find that his mother has disappeared. He frantically searches for her and later discovers that the Snowman which was built outside their home is wearing her pink scarf around its neck. Treated as a missing persons case, detective Harry Hole is brought to investigate, who has his own suspicions following the receipt of an anonymous letter signed The Snowman a few months earlier.

His doubts are confirmed when the investigation reveals a startling fact that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the last couple of years. Convinced that a serial killer is on the loose, Hole and his team fight a dangerous psychotic monster who seems to be one step ahead of them. For the gaunt and alcoholic Hole, the killer becomes an obsession that it almost drives him to the brink of insanity.

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, The Snowman (Snømannen being the original title) is macabre and carries an eerie feeling all throughout. The terrain needs time getting used to (especially if you are new to Nordic noir), but the minute you harmonize, everything clicks into place. And with suspects, gory crime scenes and chilling confrontations aplenty, the mystery is a complete brain-teaser. The identity of the killer throws up as a nice (if not totally unexpected) surprise and his (or her) psychology has been fleshed out real well.

With a love life that's complicated beyond disentanglement and a loner who fights to stay sober, Harry Hole is one compelling character. Marked with vivid detailing and incorporating themes of infidelities and troubled childhood, Nesbo weaves an exciting police procedural. But what goes wrong is its over the top nature. In an attempt to mystify the readers, Nesbo resorts to graphic violence and incredulous plot devices that chips away some of genuine creep factor he builds up. Compulsively gripping, who would have ever thought a Snowman could be this scary and disquieting. A night time read is best advised to experience the chills and thrills!