Book Review: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

I’m not entirely sure what I make of this book, aside from the fact that it’s rather dark. I remember Nesbo was a big deal during the Scandi-noir boom a few years ago, and he’s been on my radar for a while, but this tome has sat on my shelf for months. I finally got it down, and it was very much a mixed bag.

nesbo snowman

Full disclosure, however, I didn’t know when I started that this is the seventh in a series, so it is possible that my issues with the protagonist may be because Nesbo is writing assuming that readers are familiar with Harry Hole, his alcoholic copper. The problem is that Hole is never that engaging, he’s clever and I didn’t want him to fall off the wagon, but I couldn’t say much more about him and the alkie cop seems a bit cliche.

This novel follows Hole having to deal with several issues, a new junior officer, the fact his lover is moving on and the fact that a serial killer is on the prowl, this killer named the Snowman has been kidnapping women for years, every time the first snow falls. The pattern has previously gone unnoticed, but now Hole is on the case. Can he uncover the identity of the Snowman? Who can he trust? And can he defeat his inner demons?

We’ll start with the good news, in places this is an intensely gripping and tense thriller, with the case slowly revealing itself and some nerve jangling moments as our killer stalks his victims. The last hundred or so pages are fantastic, the tension building and all the pieces falling into place transforms this section into a sprint, and I devoured page after page as I wanted to see what happened.

The problem is that this is the opposite of the early stages, where Nesbo shuffles different time periods to establish the different strands of the book. Admittedly, it didn’t help that I didn’t pay enough attention to the chapter headings and confused myself, but it still feels a little stilted. Similarly, while a red herring is always welcome, Nesbo throws far too much in the mix and there are a few too many connections for it to hang together comfortably. One coincidence or secret link springing up is one thing, having them blossom all around is something else.

That being said, he does tie up a lot of the little clues he drops in well enough and, after a slow start, it did hold my attention, but his hero feels a little weak, his alcoholism standing in for actual personality.

Verdict: A solid enough thriller, but there’s a bit too much going on and the protagonist isn’t that interesting. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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