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Jo Nesbo’s “The Snowman”

I hit the Readers’ Jackpot over the Veterans Day weekend–started and finished a whole book, “The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo, a mystery set in Norway. I enjoyed it immensely.

I picked it up off of our “Books to Go” shelf because I’d heard its title come up in conversation about mysteries to read that might be similar to Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who…” series. Not that I’d ever judge a book by its cover, but this one is eye-catching, a snowman made of torn white paper on a black background.

Its star and detective is Harry Hole, a nonconformist detective in Oslo, an expert on serial killers (of which there have been almost none in Norway). Typical of any mystery, its plot confounds a brief synopsis. As the story progresses, Harry contends with the murders and all of the red herrings and clues therein, the love of his life who is moving on to another man, and a new detective in his department who he’s supposed to take under his wing. Throughout, he has a sense that he is being watched, followed, and maybe fooled.

Initially, each murder happens with the first snowfall of the year. The book opens with one such scene. Nesbo carefully introduces each character and places each within the mystery. He weaves in a sexual/medical mystery. Deftly, Nesbo explores social views of sexual behavior within a plot-driven novel. At various points, Hole believes that he knows who “The Snowman” is. Nesbo carefully crafts this plot to hit a few dead ends, and then pick up again. As I’ve noted previously, I tend not to read mysteries with the intention of solving the crime. In this case, the killer became clear to me.

I will recommend this to mystery readers who are accepting of some pretty forceful violence, sometimes combined with sex–the plot relies on sexual infidelity. The Norwegian setting adds a particular atmosphere, so readers who crave a “dark” setting may find themselves happy with “The Snowman.”

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