07 September 2011

ála Stephen King

If Stephen King can make a classic car into an evil symbol, why not a snowman? Bill Watterson did just the opposite with snowmen in his comic strips. Jo Nesbø followed the Stephen King model in his 2010 book, The Snowman.
When I saw Nesbø's name on the shelf of new books, I recognized it. (That's the other reason I didn't need my "to read" list when I last went to the library.) Once again, I don't remember how Nesbø's fiction was recommended. Should I be keeping track of that too? Well, if you recommended this Norwegian writer, thank you.
The Snowman is a murder mystery focused on the search for "Norway's fist serial killer." According to a creepy Wikipedia article, there was one Norwegian serial killer, but nothing like the one in Nesbø's book.
The good guy in Nesbø's fiction is "antihero police investigator, Harry Hole," according to the book jacket. He gets a partner in this book who is a stunningly attractive young woman from across the Norwegian mountains (and cultural divide, evidently). There are several comments in the book about how the natives of Bergen are so different from the people of Oslo. Who knew that some Bergensians don't really think of Oslo as a capital city. Or that Oslo natives look down on people from Bergen. In spite of the prejudices in the Oslo cop shop, every male cop in the book except Hole drools over (and sometimes on) Katrine Bratt.
The killer the unlikely pair pursue seems to kill on the day of the first snowfall and builds a decidedly non-Watterson snowman at the site of the murder. As things progress, parts of the victims' bodies become parts of the nasty snowmen. (Maybe they were really snowwomen, since all but one victim was female. But Nesbø doesn't go there.)
The red herrings in the plot are good. At least twice I was tempted to think that Hole and Bratt had found the killer. But I could tell from the number of pages I hadn't read yet, that the story wasn't over. And the last line of the book suggests that the story isn't over yet. Look for a sequel.
I generally liked the book. Most of the story telling is good. The characters are interesting, although not as well-defined as I'd like them. But, there's too much story telling. I skimmed through the end of the book as Nesbø went on and on about the background of the killer. It was as though he'd gone to all the work of creating a back story and he couldn't leave it out of the book. I think he could have left it out.
Nesbø, who is described on the book jacket as "a musician, songwriter, economist, and author" has had three other books published in the USA. I think I'll keep his name on my "to read" list and look for another of his books someday. There's also a film based on his novel, Headhunters, that premiered in Norway and Germany this summer.
Have you read The Snowman or another of Nesbø's books? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world about your reactions.
BTW: Does anybody know what the Scandinavian "ø" does to pronunciation? Or what it's purpose is? It's a pain to type on an English keyboard. Rather like the little circle above some vowels (å). That's a mystery to me as well.

1 comment:

Ken Wedding said...

Dan Conrad wrote, "The other is that tonight I finished Jo Nesbo's The Snowman.

"I was going to recommend him and the book and then checked your blog and see that you already had reviewed The Snowman.

"So nothing new to offer--though I did, like you, enjoyed the fast paced story and also found myself skipping past some back story stuff to just 'get on with it...'

"I also, like you, almost fell for the red herrings -- except that they were too early and too obvious to be the solution.

"The final scene, after a back story that slowed things down, was a little far fetched and didn't quite match the intricacy of the plot that preceded it, but that's a small quibble for a highly enjoyable novel."