Knopf, May 10 2011, $25.95
In Oslo, as the first snow of the year falls, Jonas Becker awakens during the night to find his mother Birte not home. Footprints from trekking in the wet snow are inside the house. Eerily outside a snowman stares at the house wearing a pink scarf that a terrorized Jonas knows belongs to his mother.
Police detective Harry Hole leads the inquiry into the missing person case that looks like a house invasion abduction. His first suspect is the husband, arrogant Professor Filip. However, he revises his opinion when the head of a female is found atop the body of a snowman. As he analyzes the data, he received a letter from a killer signed as the Snowman referring to a case Harry worked on years ago in Australia. He soon realizes this psychopath has been murdering women on the first snowfall for years, but only now has decided to become visible by battling Hole in a game of wits.
Although a game between a serial killer and a detective has been done by other novelists (see Beverly Barton’s The Murder Game and The Dying Game), Hole, who has the personality of a hostile newt (the Salamandridae family will complain about the insult). make for a fresh contest. The investigation is fun to follow as the cop’s team, superiors, and family dislike him, but he is the best detective on the Oslo force; beside which the Snowman selected him for the wintry chess match. Readers will enjoy this award winning Norwegian police procedural and seek other translated Harry Hole inquiries (see The Devil’s Star).