The Snowman

Thoughts on Jo Nesbø's The Snowman

This was a disappointing book. I picked it up based on several positive book reviews and a couple of articles heralding Jo Nesbø as a superstar author in his home country of Norway. I was in the mood for a good crime thriller and was intrigued by the dark and dreary Norwegian setting, which seemed perfect for the genre.

I like the main character, Inspector Harry Hole.  Described as not particularly handsome, some would even say ugly, he is a troublemaker at the office often rocking the boat much to the chagrin of his superior officers. He struggles with alcoholism, has a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend, but is the most successful detective on the force. Pretty standard noir hero stuff, I suppose, but he is well-written and I found him easy to like despite or perhaps due to his flaws.

The story begins well enough with a flashback that sets up the events to come. Once victims begin to go missing or are found murdered, the hunt is on and for me, that's where things fall apart. Circumstantial evidence is gathered and suspects are falsely accused one after another. I was particularly aghast at one suspect practically being accused on a national talk show. These false accusations result in the suspects being either killed, wrongly imprisoned, humiliated, or tortured. Pretty sloppy police work and I am surprised the third act of the book wasn't about all of the lawsuits brought against the Police Department by the families of these people.

The author overuses misdirection and red herrings and I stopped trusting him halfway through the story. There are only so many times an author can pull the rug out from under a reader before the reader finds somewhere else to stand, preferably with a different novel in their hands. There was also a lot of vague description designed to enhance tension in particular scenes, but I found it tiresome. In one scene, a character reaches his hand under a blanket and "finds what he was looking for". A gun, a knife, his car keys? We'll never know because it is never revealed. What is the point of that? Instead of enhancing the tension of the scene, it just frustrated me.

I don't read crime thrillers often and I hope the novel isn't representative of the genre in its current state. It would be irresponsible and over-reactive of me to write off an entire genre based on one bad read, but I do think I can cross Jo Nesbø off my list of authors to watch. It's a shame because I was really looking forward to this.