Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Great Detectives with Unfortunate Names

The Snowman (Inspector Harry Hole#7) (2007) by Jo Nesbo (translated into English from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett): Say what you will about the Scandinavians, but people sure love their mysteries and thrillers. Especially publishers looking for the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or Smilla's Sense of Snow, going back a few years). That's why The Snowman is the first Jo Nesbo-penned Harry Hole (!!!) police procedural translated into English but the seventh overall: this Norwegian thriller is the most marketable of the Hole books.

Why? It's got a nigh-omniscient serial killer, the sort of serial killer who's nigh-omnipresent in movies, television, and novels but nigh-non-existent in the real world. Especially serial killers who actively seek out the cop hunting them for a showdown. So far as I know, this has never happened in real life, ever, anywhere on the planet. In fiction, though, it's such a common occurrence that one is surprised that there are any homicide detectives left alive on planet Earth.

But enough of my kvetching. The Snowman is a tensely plotted, satisfying twisty fun-machine that involves the horrible murders of several women over a 15-year period. Harry Hole, Oslo detective and possessor of a name that I personally would have changed for English-language publication, is an alcoholic trainwreck who is also the Best Damn Detective in Norway. He must stop a serial killer dubbed The Snowman, in part because The Snowman seems to have taken a personal interest in him.

One of the reasons The Snowman was selected as the first English-language appearance of Hole is, I believe, its cinematic touches. There are several set-pieces that seem to have been written expressly for film. And hey, Michael Fassbender has apparently been cast in the long-gestating Snowman film adaptation! He looks nothing much like the character described in the novel other than their shared attribute of Tallness, but so it goes.

Anyway, this is an enjoyable thriller. And Hole is an engaging character. The serial killer is ludicrous on a number of levels once revealed, but less so than a lot of serial killers (including every incarnation of Hannibal Lecter). And Nesbo makes Norway seem interesting in an odd way, like a small town masquerading as a country. The translation by Don Barrett seems solid to me. Recommended.

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