Anita Laydon's Reviews > The Snowman

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
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's review
Jul 08, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: light-horror

A review I wrote for my Colorado Springs GAZETTE book column:

Talk about creepy. Jo Nesbo’s Norwegian thriller “The Snowman” is the ultimate in freak-out fiction.

The story begins with a raunchy love scene between a married woman and her longtime lover. In the middle of the scene, the man sees a face through his bedroom window. I presumed the face belonged to the woman’s young son, who had been left in the car. But when the woman looks out the window, she sees nothing but a freshly built snowman. The scene ends when the woman returns to her car and finds her son distressed. Pale and trembling, he tells her, “We’re going to die.”

The next scene fast forwards several years and introduces Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad. A recovering alcoholic who has recently ended a relationship, Hole is lonely and fills his time with his work. He makes a sympathetic, likable character and is the perfect person to hunt for a serial killer. Because, as you may have guessed, many people die in “The Snowman.”

The book’s villain leaves a snowman at each crime scene—one of the creepiest calling cards I’ve ever read about—and mostly targets spunky women with children. The women’s deaths resonate with Henry, because his former love interest, Rakel, fits the victim profile perfectly. Rakel has a son, Oleg, and Harry is still fond of them both. He’s like a surrogate father to Oleg, whose biological father is out of the picture.

For constant readers like me, Harry’s relationship with Rakel and Oleg is a big red flag. As soon as I read that she fit the profile, I knew she would become a target. The author did not disappoint, and the crime scene involving Rakel is one of the best scenes in the book.

“The Snowman” features many exciting chase scenes, gruesome murders and an abundance of suspects. The bleak Norwegian backdrop adds to the story, as do bits of American culture inserted to help readers keep the timeline straight. Harry’s personal problems give his character depth and make me want to read more stories in which he is featured.

Harry is the main character in eight other Jo Nesbo thrillers. Six of them come before “The Snowman” and two come after. Unfortunately, they’re not all currently available in the United States. For more information about when the books will be translated and available, please visit the author’s website at


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