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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Books - The Snowman - Jo Nesbo

Star rating – 8/10

It wasn’t because of all the adverts at every turn at train and tube stations that I gave this book a go – if anything the claim to be the ‘next Stieg Larrson’ is a bit off putting, and seems to be setting the author up to fail somewhat. But when I looked it over while idling away a few moments in a little bookshop I like to frequent, I was intrigued enough to want to read on.

Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian author, and so fits nicely into the current mania for all things Scandinavian. This is not his first book, he has been publishing crime novels for well over ten years, and this one is not the first to feature his detective Harry Hole either. But it has certainly brought him to the attention of a much wider audience, possibly fortuitously, but on reading this gripping page turner, the attention is thoroughly deserved.

Hole has all the archetypal features in his personal life that we have come to expect from our favourite super sleuths – disastrous romantic relationships; a propensity to drink copious amounts of alcohol at inappropriate moments; an inability to play by the rules or respect his superiors at work; and a work life balance that is seriously not to be emulated. So with all the usual crime clichés in place, why is this one such an exciting read?

Hole is on the trail of a serial killer, whose disturbing crimes are macabre and unsettling. Women are the victims, and only women with young children who are scooped from their homes by the killer , leaving a snowman as a calling card in the garden. The plot is very clever – with just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the end. Hole inevitably gets his personal life mixed up in the case, and his physical and mental health obviously suffer as a result.

The writing is taut and pacey, and did really keep me reading on into the small hours as all excellent crime writing should. So is Nesbo the next Larrson? I would say no. No-one can fill those incredibly big shoes. But he is still a writer to watch, and maybe even to curl up with a few past cases with Harry Hole in his previous novels, before the next one, The Leopard, comes out later this year. Totally recommended.

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