Crime fiction,  Nordic Noir

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

I decided to read The Snowman by Jo Nesbø (2007) after I realised the film adaptation was about to come out and it would be perfect for a dark, rainy Saturday evening. Two things happened that will surprise no bookworm: Everyone told me the film was horribly made (apparently something to do with reshootings), and I loved the book. Since I am having some serious trouble finding space for new books and I am an avid public library user I borrowed the Spanish translation from my public library with the blessing of the librarian, who has known me since I was 3. She said I would love it, and as usual, she was right.

The Spanish translation for Jo Nesbø‘s The Snowman retains the original title Snømannen, and the high quality that has made of this novel the most well-known and critically acclaimed in the Harry Hole series, which has seen its eleventh installment published in 2017. But there is a reason for this: The Snowman is a perfectly crafted crime fiction novel with a main character that walks the line between clichés and Nordic appeal. We may roll our eyes at Harry’s drinking problem, his FBI training, and his desire to keep her partner at arm’s length and reunite with her, but we will still be seduced by his intelligence and his traditional masculinity that has open a door for gender and race equality.

Obviously such a hero deserves a worthy crusade. It is mentioned several times throughout in the novel that Hole’s FBI training and his success in a previous case has him seeing serial murderers where there are none. But Harry knows there is more to the killing of Olso’s young women, especially when he and his team discover that snowmen have appeared in the women’s gardens right after they disappeared. And of course, he must be at the centre of it. Despite this use of crime fiction hard-boiled conventions, Nesbø‘s writing is on point and only rarely do we roll our eyes at Harry. Instead, we worry about him and his personal role in the investigation is successfully transferred to the reader so that we feel at the centre of the story.

The Snowman is probably the first book by a male author that I read in 2017. I always joke that I do not read crime fiction written by men because I am tired of the reification of women’s bodies, especially the victims. But I must admit I have a soft spot for some Nordic Noir authors. Stieg Larsson and Arnaldur Indriðason are two of my favourites, and now Nesbø will be joining them as I borrow all his books from the county’s public library. Do not be mistaken, there is a lot of masculine and old school noir in Nesbø‘s writing, but Hole is too appealing and the stories are too perfectly crafted to ignore. Maybe I am just the last of many readers to fall prey to Harry’s charms, or maybe this is crime fiction love.

Jo-Nesbo_2Jo Nesbø is a Norwegian author of crime fiction internationally known for the Harry Hole series. He has been awarded several prizes for his writing, which also includes a YA series, and stand-alone novels.

The eleventh Harry Hole novel was published in 2017.




  • cleopatralovesbooks

    Sadly this is one author I haven’t managed to get to grips with – I found it all a bit too much for my tastes which is surprising because not a lot tends to phase me but there is something about these Nordic writers that I find just too dark.

    • Elena

      Totally agree. My Nordic Kryptonite is Icelandinc writer Indridason. I just have to be in the right mood for his novels, and even then they are sometimes a bit too much!

  • Naomi

    The Snowman is the only book by Nesbo that I own. I don’t read a lot of crime/thriller, but I like to have a few on hand for when the mood strikes me. You make it sound good!

    • Elena

      I hope you enjoy it, Naomi. It’s the first Nesbo that I read and he’s now on my list of authors to keep an eye on!

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