Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo is one of those writers that seem to get better and better as time goes by. The Snowman is the seventh novel he’s written having as the main protagonist Harry Hole, a detective who can in a way remind the reader of the various clichés, but which at the same time blows all those clichés into pieces. He looks just like an acrobat, walking on a tightrope all the time, becoming the favorite target of his colleagues when anything goes wrong, fighting with his addiction to alcohol, falling down often enough but not staying down; instead he jumps right up and continues where he left.     Things are never easy for him and that’s not about to change now as he’s called to investigate a series of similar hideous crimes committed by an extremely clever and well-organized perp whom the cops come to call the Snowman. And that’s only because wherever he hits he leaves behind a snowman as his signature, as if to provoke the police to catch him if they can, before he melts away and vanishes once and for all. Can they catch him though? Probably not, but Harry is not to blame. He told them from the very beginning, when the first victim was abducted, that they had to do with a serial killer, but none of the big-shots believed him and so a lot of precious time has been lost. “This is not America” they thought, feeling sure that Harry’s idea originated from the seminars he followed at the FBI. However, soon enough the crimes would start multiplying and the corpses of decapitated women would begin to spring up everywhere.
     Who’s hiding behind these extremely violent crimes and what’s his or her motive? Is there a connection between the victims? And are these cases in any way related with a similar one which has taken place twenty-four years ago in a town far away from Oslo?
     As days slip past by these and all the new questions that arise remain unanswered, and as a result Harry every now and then seems to be losing it. These cases for some reason affect him personally, they damage his already fragile psyche, and he can’t really understand why. Also because of them his spare time is becoming less and less, thus he cannot meet as often as he wants his ex-girlfriend Rakel and her son who considers him as his real father. Finally, they make him want to drink, and that should never happen, not ever again.
     The author creates a complicated plot that keeps the action moving and the agony rising from beginning to end, but he also pays a lot of attention to the psychological angle – he dives deep into the subconscious of his heroes. And maybe, for the very first time he throws into the path of poor old Harry, a sister-soul, whom he meets at the face of the young and attractive detective Katrine Bratt, who’s not only brilliant but who seems to believe in him more than anyone else ever did, and is willing to do whatever it takes to help him. Their fight, the good fight, will at some points look lonesome and hopeless, but during it they’ll keep leaning on each other to make it through, and when at a point some dark secrets will come to the surface, they will not prove strong enough to wreck the bonds of trust that bind them together.
     The well-carved characters, the excellent plot, the not too fast action and the constant agony, make this thriller one of the best that I’ve read this year so far and elevate, at least in my eyes, its hero to the height of John Rebus or even higher. I recommend it to simply anyone who likes crime fiction.

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