The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo - awards (selected)

  • The Riverton Prize 1997 for The Bat Man
  • The Glass Key Award 1998 for The Bat Man
  • The Norwegian Booksellers' Prize 2000, The Redbreast
  • Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written in 2004, The Redbreast
  • Shortlisted, Duncan Lawrie International Dagger 2007, The Redbreast
  • The Norwegian Booksellers' Prize 2007, The Snowman
  • The Norwegian Book Club Prize 2008, The Snowman
  • Nominated for the Edgar Award 2010 for Nemesis
More about Jo Nesbo

It is November in Oslo, and the first snow is falling. Winter has arrived. During the night a young boy wakes up to find his mother - Birte Becker - gone. There are wet footprints on the stairs. And outside, in the garden, looms a lonely figure looking at the house: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. And around its neck is his mother's pink scarf.

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

The Snowman is the seventh novel (in Norwegian, 6th translated into English) in the excellent and widely acclaimed series about Detective Harry Hole from Oslo, written by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo (picture below). Harry Hole is tall, athletic, lean, has blonde hair, machine-cropped hair. He is very smart but a bit introvert, does things his own way and doesn’t always communicate well, has some series issues with alcohol, and is not very well liked by colleagues in the Oslo police force. He is their best investigator and their worst public servant (see his CV below).

The Smowman, by Jo Nesbo

Detective Inspector Harry Hole has received a strange anonymous letter which did not make much sense to him. It was signed by “The Snowman”. Now he starts to look more closely into it. And when Harry and his team delve into unsolved case files, they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. There is a previously overlooked pattern in the data: Many married women have gone missing on the day when the first snow falls.

Jo NesboBut the police cannot find any traces of Birte Becker, the woman who disappeared from her home; the mother of Jonas and married to Filip, an arrogant professor of physics. However, a few days later the head of another woman is found outside Oslo. It has been placed on the top of a snowman.

It is evident that there is a serial killer on the loose. A killer that has been killing for years. Silently, unnoticed. And a killer that now - for some reason - has wanted to reveal himself to Harry Hole. That wants Harry Hole implicated. And who makes Harry feel that he is being played with. That he has become a pawn in a brutal and deadly game. And Harry is being played with - before the game is over, the killer will drive him to the brink of insanity.

The Snowman was awarded with The Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2007 for Best Novel of the Year. It is a strong, brilliant thriller where the action never stops. I enjoyed it tremendously. The Snowman is a thriller that confirms Jo Nesbo’s position as one of the stars in contemporary crime fiction.

(Based on Snømannen, the Norwegian original of the novel - I have not seen the translation.)

Praise for The Snowman:

”Criminally good. (…) The Snowman is a skillfully written Hole novel, a crime story so well made that you simply cannot put it away. Nesbo is the Picasso of Norwegian crime” Stavanger Aftenblad (Norway)

”A masterfully written crime story.” Verdens Gang (Norway)

”Nesbo .. delivers at such a pace that it whizzes at the turns …” Bergensavisen (Norway)

”Perhaps [The Snowman] is even a notch better than its predecessors … Nobody writes better crime fiction in Scandinavia than Jo Nesbo. It is a pleasure, a pure joy, to let oneself get lost in his writing art. The Snowman is the kind of book that you devour in a greedy gulp, and that stays with you long after you’ve put it away.” Fredriksstad Blad (Norway)

”…[Jo Nesbo is] my latest favorite crime author. He is, in fact, the kind of writer I read for his literary qualities.” Dagens Nyheter (Sweden)

”Jo Nesbo has become a favorite among Swedish crime readers. /…/ Nesbo has a singular ability to maintain the vitality of his story, to surprise and craft genuine characters who lead distinct, individual lives. His writing is a pure pleasure to indulge in.” Dagbladet (Sweden)

Curriculum Vitae, Harry Hole

(From the official Jo Nesbo site, adapted)

Personal details
Harry Hole is in his late thirties. Born in Oppsal, Oslo, he is unmarried, with one great passion and several smaller ones behind him. No children, but on occasion a kind of father to Oleg, Rakel's son. Lives in Sofies gate in Bislet, Oslo.

Graduated from Police College and Law School, grades marginally above average. Special investigator for Crime Squad in Oslo. One-year course with FBI in Chicago, specialising in serial killers. Short stint with Politiets Overvakningstjeneste - POT/ Norwegian Secret Service - before returning to the Crime Squad.


Bjarne Moller, Head of Crime Squad and Harry Hole's superior officer, describes Harry as the best investigator in the department and the worst public servant. By which he means Harry's anti-authority, anti-sobriety, anti-rules-of-the-game attitude which makes him a danger to himself and those around him. Does his utmost to protect himself and his department. And Harry. Moller is Harry's guardian angel, all that stands between him and dismissal.

Stig Aune, psychologist and police advisor. Has treated Harry for alcoholism and become a personal friend. The only one, except for Oystein.

Oystein Eikeland, taxi-driver and Harry's sole childhood friend from Oppsal. Thinks Harry ought to have a more liberal attitude to amphetamines.

Rakel, the woman he loves. Single mother. She and Harry try to live with and without each other; neither works.

Sis, his younger sister. The person Harry loves most after Rakel. Down's syndrome. Feels like a big sister.

Jim Beam, contains 4O% alcohol, a loyal friend since Harry's early twenties.

Music: likes everything from Sex Pistols to Duke Ellington. From Neil Young to Slipknot.
Film: His all-time favorite is "The Conversation" by Coppola. One of very few who consider Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" a masterpiece and Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" complete rubbish.

Substance abuse:
Alcoholism runs in the family. Started drinking heavily in his late teens, has tried most types of drugs. Views all drugs as anesthetics. Dry and sober most of the time, but with a furious and constant urge.

Future plans:
The near future looks dismal. After that it gets darker. And then it all goes to hell..

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