by Josh Greenberg in Hythe, UK – courtesy of www.AwesomeBooks.com
I like crime fiction, if not love it. It reaches that place in my mind where I can read something for the sheer pleasure, without having to think too much. At same time I can become involved with the characters to a degree that pleases me and draws me in.
Sadly, it was this that let ‘The Snowman’ down. The book, the first in the Harry Hole series by ‘the new Stieg Larsson’ (not my words, I’ve never read any of the millennium series and don’t intend to), is Scandinavian crime fiction as I understand it to be – dark; moody; slightly scary (a friend couldn’t read it when she was alone); and subtly violent.
Harry Hole is a detective in the finest, hardboiled tradition. A former drunk who has lost two partners in the line of duty, who’s drunkenness seems to improve his deductive abilities. Oh, and he has an ex-wife who is getting re-married, and Harry plays father to her son by yet-another man.
So…so far, so good. We have the occasionally drunk, but talented detective who is both feared and held incompetent by his superiors, he has a history, issues with family, and a serial killer on the loose. Sounds like the perfect crime-fiction mix from a distance.
But Andrea Camilleri this isn’t. Unlike Camilleri, or Colin Cotterill (both crime fiction novelists I adore), The Snowman has no warmth. Maybe the is due to the setting – Oslo isn’t the warmest of places after all. The prevalence of snow and the feeling of a depressing greyness hang in the air.
I’ve not yet read any Henning Mankel, but I know from watching the Swedish version of Wallander that this depressive snowbound atmosphere influences much of the tone of the programme, and can’t help but feel this works better on the screen than in a book – judging from The Snowman at any rate.
Now I don’t expect a crime novel to leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling, but I want to be pulled into it, with an urgency to find out whodunnit driving me through the book. This is certainly something that doesn’t happen with here, moreover there’s a massive hint halfway through that more-or-less gives it away. Any number of twists and turns can’t cover this up, and the false trails and dead-ends become obvious, if not predictable.
I always judge a book by how unputdownable it is, and I can safely say that I had to force myself to push this one through to the grizzly (it is) end. Maybe this being a first novel means the character needs to develop more but I don’t believe that’s the case – Harry Hole seems a very complete individual.
I think in the future, I’ll stick to my crime novels set in warmer climes, it seems to make it that much more enjoyable.
Want to read more from Josh? Head over to www.joshbox.co.uk where he is master in residence…