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Jo Nesbo

missing image"Nordic noir" master Jo Nesbø's new novel, The Snowman, is the seventh in the Harry Hole series and the fifth to be published in America, following Redbreast (2007), Nemesis (2009), The Devil's Star (4 of 5 Stars May/June 2010), and The Redeemer (2010) (the next in the series, The Leopard [2011], is currently available in Britain). In The Snowman, Hole faces a killer with a penchant for young mothers and creepy snow sculptures.

The Story: In the wake of winter's first storm, a woman disappears from her Oslo home. Her abductor leaves a snowman, wrapped in the woman's scarf, to stand ominous watch over the house. Our haunted and deeply flawed detective, Harry Hole, investigates the crime, fighting his own personal demons in the form of an ex-girlfriend and a failed relationship with her son. He connects the murders of the women to an anonymous letter he received before the spree began, as well as to other similar murders from years past, but the crimes and their motivation are even more byzantine than Hole can imagine. A glamorous new partner, Katrin Bratt, may or may not help to crack the case, as she and Hole confront a demented and supremely diabolical killer.
Knopf. 400 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307595867.

The Times (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Every now and then, a truly exceptional crime novel comes along, something so gripping that it recalls classics such as The Silence of the Lambs. One of Norway's most successful crime writers, Jo Nesbø has pulled it off with The Snowman." Joan Smith

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"A superb thriller--smart, stylish, beautifully paced and meticulously plotted. ... Ultimately, though, what sets Nesbø apart is his ability to keep the pages turning--and there are almost 400 of them--with such intellectual dexterity." Ed Siegel

Slate 4 of 5 Stars
"Nesbø's talent for complex, propulsive plotting reaches its pinnacle in this volume: I actually had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to finish reading it, because thinking about its plot strands made me hopelessly insomniac. ... The baroque quality of its Grand Guignol ending signals--to me, at least--that Jo Nesbø is finally getting tired of Harry Hole." Wendy Lesser

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"If you don't know Nesbø, it's time to get with it. ... Nesbø's novels are much more about the compulsive Harry than the killers he pursues." Carol Memmott

Daily Beast 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Snowman is strung together with great care, playful in certain stretches, grisly in others, all of it highly readable. But Nesbø is intent on looting from Hall of Fame mystery writers stretching from Hammett to Michael Connelly." Bryan Curtis

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In his zeal to import mad-dog serial killers to the peaceable kingdom of his native Norway, Jo Nesbo is compelled to devise some pretty outlandish schemes to occupy Inspector Harry Hole, his maverick detective on the Oslo crime squad. ... The atmosphere of guilt and gloom is also a reflection of Harry's moody thoughts about his own troubled relationships, his obsessive work ethic and his unhealthy preoccupation with the nature of evil." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Jo Nesbø's star has been on the rise in America since his novel Redbreast was published in 2007. With The Snowman, the author invites comparisons to the work of the best Scandinavian thriller writers, including Henning Mankell and (inevitably) Stieg Larsson. If anything, though, Nesbø's edge is even sharper than that of his contemporaries. "This is reading as you experienced it in childhood, without any gap between eye and mind," Wendy Lesser writes. Nesbø's visceral prose and his whip-smart plotting will continue to stand him in good stead, whether in the next installment of the Harry Hole saga or in another (no doubt equally dark) venture, garnering an even larger following on this side of the Atlantic. Time will tell if Nesbø is going through "series fatigue." For now, though, his novels only get stronger.