I was wandering through the library when I spied The Snowman on the shelf. I instantly knew that it was the book the reportedly worst movie ever was based off of. As a believer in the book is always better, and seeing as how I’m never seeing that movie, I had to check it out.
Detective Harry Hole (Yes, that is the name Jo Nesbo chose for his character) is a hardboiled Norwegian cop with a former drinking problem. For me, the best comparison is Idris Elba in Luther. In a country as small as Norway, Harry is a bit of a celebrity, having solved a couple famous crimes both at home and abroad. When women begin disappearing, Harry suspects something that’s never happened in Norwegian history: their first serial killer. And as with all famous detectives, the killer is always a little closer to home than he would like.
As this is a detective murder mystery, and I used to watch a TON of CSI, the novel follows some familiar tropes. The detective is smarter than everyone, there’s a couple fake killers before the real killer, there’s a last minute save. Pretty standard stuff. The novel is written well and the chain of events is generally logical.
I guess it’s my duty to tell you a couple things. Firstly, trigger warning, of course the serial killer has it out for women. And there’s sexually explicit violence. His reasoning is followable (if twisted), 20% of Norwegians don’t know their real dad. His mom had sex with a guy who had a rare disease and sired him. His response is that she was a whore so he killed her instead of killing the guy she cheated with. Huh, interesting, patriarchy much? And now he goes around killing women who have cheated on their husbands who don’t know that their kids are not theirs.
The other thing is the absolute dinger of a clue that Harry Hole misses. And I wouldn’t harp on this so much if he wasn’t A. supposed to be the smartest guy in the room which he proves multiple times or B. super obvious to me, an idiot. Here’s the situation. Character 1 has gone off the grid. Harry is trying to find him. Character 2 calls Harry because he knows character 1 and tells him that character 1 was asking about a dangerous drug that could be used in a suicide. Character 1 is then found dead in an apparent suicide with that drug. The police believe it, Harry doesn’t. And Harry proves that character 1 didn’t commit suicide with that drug but was in fact, killed with that drug. So if he wasn’t committing suicide, that means that character 2 clearly killed character 1 and wanted the police to believe the suicide angle. This is so obvious, and halfway through the book. Harry, the brilliant detective, forgets that phone call like a fool and now I have to read 250 more pages knowing exactly who the killer is.
Both a misstep by the killer, who is also smart about his kills, and the “genius” detective. And really, an unnecessary detail by the author. Maybe it was for readers who want to be able to figure it out before Harry? I like figuring it out but not at the expense of good sense. I had an inkling who the killer was before that, but that just blew it wide open.
Still, a solid book if you like murder mysteries and good writing. Just don’t expect too much.
2.5 out of 4 stars.