The Snowman (novel)

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The Snowman
Author Jo Nesbø
Original title Snømannen
Country Norway
Language Norwegian
Genre Crime fiction
Publisher Aschehoug
Publication date
Pages 438 pp
ISBN 978-82-03-19212-8
OCLC 213225595
LC Class PT8951.24.E83 S56 2007
Preceded by The Redeemer
Followed by The Leopard
Jo Nesbø talks about The Snowman on Bookbits radio.

The Snowman (Norwegian: Snømannen, 2007) is a novel by Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø. It is the seventh entry in his Harry Hole series.


The book begins in 1980 (24 years before the main part of the novel). A married woman has sex with a lover in the middle of the day, while her adolescent son waits in a car outside; their lovemaking is disturbed when they think somebody is looking at them from outside the window, but it turns out to have been only a tall snowman. The significance of the scene only becomes clear near the end of the book, where – as with other flashbacks in the Harry Hole books – it provides a clue to the identity of the book's real villain.

The main plot is set in 2004, when Norwegian detective, Harry Hole investigates a number of recent murders of women around Oslo. His experience of an earlier training course with the FBI leads him to search for links between the cases, and he finds two – each victim is a married mother and after each murder a snowman appears at the murder scene.

On looking back through previous cold cases, Hole comes to realise that he is on the case of Norway's first official serial killer, as he discovers more women who have disappeared and are believed to have been abducted or murdered in a similar way. Almost all of the victims vanished after the first snowfall of winter and a snowman is found near the scene, this fact having usually ignored by the original investigators.

Further digging leads Harry and his team – including newcomer Katrine Bratt, recently transferred to Oslo from the Police Department in Bergen – to suspect that paternity issues with the children of the victims may be a motive for the murders. They discover that all of the victims' children have different fathers to the men they believe to be their father. Following DNA testing, results lead the investigation down a few wrong alleys and several murder suspects are eliminated from the enquiry.

Within a short time, Harry Hole and Katrine are drawn together – personally as well as professionally. In the past he has avoided having affairs with female colleagues, but he is now tempted. During a departmental party, Katrine makes bold advances – and though rejecting her, Harry afterwards has fantasies about her. It is, however, far more than a sexual attraction, as he recognizes in her a kindred spirit – a brilliant detective able to notice the smallest of details and understand the connections between them. Moreover, she has the same kind of obsessive dedication to the job which he himself has – an obsessiveness which had earlier caused his girlfriend, Rakel, to break off their relationship. To complicate matters further, during the investigation, Harry continues to meet with Rakel clandestinely, despite the fact that she is in a new relationship.

Eventually, however, suspicion falls on Katrine Bratt as being herself "The Snowman", after she attempts to frame one of the major suspects. Harry chases her across Norway and finally catches up with her at a previously discovered murder site. She is apprehended and committed to a psychiatric unit.

At the same time, Hole's superior officers decide that the scandal of allowing a serial killer to work on the murder case will be damaging and determine that they require a scapegoat to appease the press. Due to his previous issues with alcoholism, and consequent poor reputation within the police department, Harry Hole is put forward in absentia.

Meanwhile, when another victim is discovered, Hole realises that the murderer is still at large. Due to a random thought triggered by a chance comment, he makes a vital connection that ultimately leads him to the identity of the true perpetrator. His success in finally apprehending the killer obviates any need for a scapegoat and Katrine Bratt, following further mental stability checks, returns to the Bergen Police Department.


Thomas Kaufmann wrote that "The Snowman gives us suspense and a veritable gallery of memorable suspects makes it a great read. Once Alfred Hitchcock talked about people taking a roller-coaster ride – how they would scream going down the hill, and laugh when they were finished. Some people like to be entertained in this way, Hitch said, and he was just a fellow who built roller coasters. The Snowman is a first-class roller-coaster ride."[1]

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation from British production company Working Title Films is currently in development.[2] Though initial reports said Martin Scorsese would direct the adaptation, tentatively planned for release in 2013,[3] it is now set to be directed by Tomas Alfredson.[4]


  1. ^ Kaufman, Thomas. "The Snowman review". The Washington Independent Review of Books. Retrieved May 31, 2011. 
  2. ^ "‘Let the Right One In’ Director Boards Jo Nesbo’s ‘The Snowman’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. April 28, 2014. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ Scott Roxborough (November 21, 2011). "Martin Scorsese to Direct 'The Snowman' for Working Title". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ Beaton, Connor. "Alfredson takes on Nesbø’s Snowman". The Targe. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2014.