My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Snowman is intense and gripping. Although parts of the story are unbelievable, Jo Nesbø's writing keeps the suspense alive. At times it is a difficult book to put down, which is the best compliment I can give to a crime novel. However, just as in action films such as Die Hard or The Eraser, plausibility takes a backseat to tension.
The Snowman is the first Harry Hole mystery I've read. It's neither the first in the series nor the last, but it stands on its own. It tells enough background to allow a new reader to understand the character relationships without slowing the book down. Harry holds back on his emotions. He's drawn to Rakel, his ex, but understands how his need to solve crimes will always get in the way of his relationship with her. He's more open with her son, Oleg, who responds well to him. But that isn't enough. Another person in his life is Katrine Bratt, a young police woman who also works on the snowman case. I expected the relationship between those two to be different from how it turned out.
The plot seemed to come to an end a couple of times during the book, but there were still many pages to go through and so the story turned out different than what was expected. That's good, although a little overdone. Yet the psychological reasons that point to each of the suspects are rationalized well, so the reader doesn't feel cheated at the end.
Another aspect of Nesbø's writing I like is his attention to small details that don't appear to advance the plot, but establish what life is like in Norway. For example there's a shop owner in the story who sells African art. The shop exists because government grants are available for this type of store, so the fact that there are few customers doesn't make any difference. The setting is also interesting. The cold of Norway suits the cold relationships between the characters.
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