Why did I get it: I have a thing for mysteries that come from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. I also really liked the chilling –no pun intended– premise of this book. Getting the printed version of the book proved to be difficult, so I decided to give the audio book a chance.
How I would rate it: 4 out of 5 stars. (I considered giving this book a 3, but after thinking about it for several days, I knew couldn’t give The Snowman anything less than a 4.)
The night the first snow falls a young boy wakes to find his mother gone. He walks through the silent house, but finds only wet footprints on the stairs. In the garden looms a solitary figure: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. Round its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.
Inspector Harry Hole is convinced there is a link between the disappearance and a menacing letter he received some months earlier. As Harry and his team delve into unsolved case files, they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years.
When a second woman disappears Harry’s suspicions are confirmed: he is a pawn in a deadly game. For the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his turf, a killer who will drive him to the brink of insanity. A brilliant thriller with a pace that never lets up, The Snowman confirms Jo Nesbø’s position as an international star of crime fiction.
Review: Despite knowing who the killer was the instant he showed up, I really loved the way the investigation unfolded, the nature of the crimes, and just the game of cat and mouse between Harry and far too many people trying to manipulate him for one reason or another. I also liked learning why the killer was the killer, which sometimes is left out of books that focus on a police officer or detective. I also enjoyed learning the history of the characters both good and evil, the atmospheric feel, and Nesbø’s attention to vivid, believable details. His writing was just so awesome in so many ways including the fact that he doesn’t just make the reader follow Harry around, but provides alot of different point of view and many fascinating characters.
Robin Sachs’ reading and British accent provided a real richness to everything, and I will definitely be looking for other books read by him in the near future. I also liked the way he pronounced all the Norwegian words. The opening, which was really sort of explicit and the gruesomeness of the murders that took place within the book made the narration take some getting used to for me. Once I got used to everything going on and was introduced to Harry Hole, I was really captivated by the story, the killer, the investigation, the suspects, the victims, the victims’ children, and, of course, the detective himself. I even found excuses to keep driving just to hear more, which is always a good sign. I spent most of the discs feeling terrified, touched, amused, and concerned for nearly everyone in the book.There’s not enough time for me to note every remarkable facet of The Snowman, but really the flow of words and the sequencing of events was mesmerizing for the most part. And I seriously doubt I will ever look at a snowman the same way again.
Sadly and honestly though, I think The Snowman was routinely bogged down by one of the worst on again off again not-really-a-romance ever. I really wish I could understand the obsession that the mystery genre has with divorce, separation, and dysfunctional relationships for main characters, but at any rate, I could not stand how both Harry and Rakel continued to sabotage themselves, each other, and quite possibly Oleg, Rakel’s son. Their toxic, unhealthy bond wasn’t as important as the incredibly twisted murders, really sick serial killer, really messed up detective, and severely distraught families, but I really wish it had been given less time and attention because, quite frankly, it was the least original and tedious aspect of an otherwise fantastic mystery novel.
This isn’t to say I don’t get why Rakel was there. I do understand the point behind it because the book is a very dark place and Harry’s emotional state is a topic that can’t be avoided in a book that is mostly about Harry. But I think there was enough going on with him that Rakel could have been given far less attention until the book started to draw to a close. I much prefered Harry’s connection to Oleg, the sympathy/concern he felt for Jonas, his interactions with his partner, Katrina, his depressingly bitter thoughts, and the awesome casework he did. He also never got distracted from the case or from most of his priorities so at least I came to care for Harry even if I don’t care for all of his decisions.
I will definitely be looking for the sequel to this book because I loved Harry, but I’m not sure yet if I will try reading or listening to other volumes that came before it because I really do not need any more Rakel in my reading life. Other readers who enjoy finding a new series with a great main character might want to read the earlier books seeing as at least five of them have been translated into English, but it is worth noting that Nesbø does a great job of explaining who everyone is so it isn’t exactly something a reader would have to do.
In conclusion, really good but not without somewhat problematic aspects that other readers might want to be aware of. However, what prevented me from giving this book anything less than 4 stars is that I cannot get over Nesbø’s writing, his craftsmanship, his main character, the killer he created, and how awesome a job Robin Sachs did of narrating. If you’re looking for a really scary book chock full of moments of brilliance that will chill you to the bone and make you forget all about the summer heat? This is the audio book for you. But reader beware: This is not for the faint of heart.