Title: The Snowman (trans. Don Bartlett)
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Hardback: 454 pages
Publication Date: 04/03/2010
With Henning Mankell having written his last Wallander novel and Stieg Larsson no longer with us, Scandianvian crime fiction has vacancies for its new rulers. The Norwegian Nesbø [along with Camilla Läckberg] would be my picks for the roles, and Nesbø’s The Snowman is a gripping illustration of his talents as a crime fiction writer.
His central character is Oslo based DI Harry Hole, a laconic and maverick detective who, in The Snowman, is battling alcoholism and the split from his girlfriend Rakel [who has now found love with Mathias, a successful and grounded doctor – the antithesis of Hole]. Add to that the new member of his team, the beautiful but icey Katrine Bratt, who is guarded and prone to mood-sings, attends Slipknot concerts and, so office rumour has it, is into S & M, and you already have a simmering cauldron of intrigue before the main plot even kicks in.
As the first snow of the year reaches Oslo, a young boy awakes to discover that his mother has disappeared. In the garden a snowman has been left, draped with her pink scarf. When another snowman is discovered, with a woman’s severed head atop it, Hole suspects a serial killer. His superiors are skeptical, as this is not the first time that Harry has claimed a serial killer is on the loose. But as he and his small team continue the investigation they discover that a number of mothers have disappeared on the first day of snow, and that all of them have something in common. And all the while the stresses of the case and his turbulent private life see Harry moving closer and closer to imploding.
This is a fast-paced and engrossing slice of crime fiction, with enough red-herrings and suspects to keep the reader constantly guessing. I must confess that I guessed the killer and also a couple of the twists, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. The one very slight negative for me was that the conclusion felt a little over-elaborate, but it does nothing to diminish what is a tense and masterful piece of crime fiction writing.