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The Snowman    by Jo Nesbo order for
by Jo NesbÝ
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2010 (2010)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

After reading Jo NesbÝ's The Snowman (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett), I am really glad that winter is over and that another half year will pass before I casually see another snowman outdoors - perhaps by then I'll have lost NesbÝ's horrific associations of violence with what was once a symbol of childhood innocence to me.

The Snowman is one in a superlative series, starring alcoholic loner, Crime Squad Police Inspector Harry Hole, whose constant insubordination is only tolerated by his superiors because of his exceptional talent for his job, which (in Harry's mind) is about 'imprisoning people who were already imprisoned inside themselves.'

As this episode opens, Harry reports to Gunnar Hagen. His drinking is under control. And he acquires a new partner, attractive, persistent young Katrine Bratt (who in her own way is rather like Harry). But Harry's love life is not going so well. Though Rakel seems continually drawn back to him (partly beacuse of young Oleg's attachment to Harry), she is in a serious relationship with a doctor named Mathias, who seems a decent sort.

Harry and Katrine start to investigate a series of gruesome killings with ties to a very cold case. It turns out that they all involve women who were having affairs and had children who were not their husband's. There's a link to a rare hereditary disease. Killings were typically done 'the day the first snow falls.' Snowmen were also staged in macabre ways, but most of the corpses are missing.

Suspicion moves from one individual to another - with the assistance of the real killer, who's busy pulling strings and preparing for a grand finale, a private performance just for Harry Hole. As always in a Harry Hole mystery, the ending is an impossible-to-guess shocker and the path to it a convoluted one. The Snowman is absolutely not to be missed by mystery fans (but do avoid reading it in winter).

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