Chilly Thrillers: Jo Nesbo


It’s Musing Mondays, an event hosted by Miz B at her blog should be reading .  Here is my response.

I recently bought and read Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman.  Jo Nesbo is a successful thriller writer from Norway.  He writes in the genre called Nordic Noir.  From what I gather, “Nordic Noir” = crime plus snow plus darkness plus a lot of brooding.

I bought the book last week because I was feeling a little sick and a little down because Minnesota had transformed from a bright, colorful land of bounty and good cheer to a gray, icy whirlwind of snow and highway destruction.  In other words, I was already in a dark and brooding place where Nordic Noir seemed appropriate.

Harry Hole is a dark, brooding, alcoholic inspector who has a knack for catching serial killers.  (He already caught one in the other Nesbo novel I read.  That one was called The Bat and was set in Australia.)  This time he is on the hunt for a serial killer who, after cutting up women into different body parts, leaves a snowman as his trademark.

Nesbo is a competent writer of thrillers, and the plot has many twists and turns.  Just when you think you’ve figured out whodunit, you realize you still have 200 pages to go, so you must be wrong.  Eventually, after what must be half the population of Norway is killed off, Hole does figure out whodunit.   If you like thrillers, I would recommend one by Nesbo.

I tend to read mysteries/thrillers/crime novels when I’m down and tired and don’t have mental energy for anything else.  I enjoy reading mysteries set in other countries.  However, I realize it gives me a really skewed idea of other places.  I’ve never been to Sweden or Norway, but from what I hear, they are lovely places to live.  But after reading Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson, a person could be forgiven for thinking these Nordic places are filled to the brim with sadists and serial killers.

And if you turn to Denmark as a relief from all the crazed Nordic murderers, you’d be making a big mistake.  Denmark is the setting of my favorite thriller of all:  Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg.

Clearly, there is no relief from terror in the snowy northland.  You’ll have to go south, way south, to get away from all that Nordic mayhem.  I’ve heard the Middle East is nice.






9 thoughts on “Chilly Thrillers: Jo Nesbo

  1. I have read some Jo Nesbo. I used to go regularly to my local library Mystery Book Group and the librarian is great. She would pick mysteries from all over the world. We did read a lot of the Scandinavian ones as well. Jo Nesbo is really good but yes pretty dark along with Stieg Larsson. Larsson may be darker as you say. I got hooked on Henning Mankel’s Wallendar series. I love mysteries. I even read one from Iceland by a woman writer called Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

      • I think I did in the past one or two. The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo was made into a film. Pretty strong stuff. Some of The Wallander series was made into film for TV on PBS with Kenneth Branagh. I also watched the Swedish editions of the Wallander series which were very good even though I had to read the subtitles. The Swedish impressed me as very much like Americans. I could relate to them very well.

  2. Yes, I have read “Smlla’s Sense of Snow” and loved it–many years ago. Is the family’s moral corruption what makes Stieg Larsson darker? I’m glad you did read Jo Nesbo. Perhaps when one is in a dark place, mysteries resonate, and we are not isolated in the darkness…I went on to contemplate that thought this morning whlle I didn’t bake butter cookies. There’s always a solution and resolution in a mystery that may translate to vigor for our own moods and mysteries. Personally, it’s why I like camels–able to go long distances through deserts until I reach the oasis.

  3. Yes, what is it about winter’s enduring darkness that lends authors like Jo Nesbo, Steig Larson, Henry Manning, Peter Hoeg, and other Nordic Noir authors to cut through the darkness of the human heart with an icicle. At the Swedish Museum in Minneapolis, embracing all things Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish, amidst snowflake crystal goblets, red Dala horses, fragile krumkake, fattigman, and rosette cookies, woven rugs and scent of cardamom, are bookshelves of the darkest, brooding, well-cut novels of mystery and murder. Six months of frigid temperatures and excessive darkness conceive, not an Italian lust for life, but the Nordic labryinthinian descent into terror. Another cup of Swediish coffee to accompany the butter cookie and your pounding heart?

    • Barbara: You are the one who recommended Jo Nesbo to me. Thanks for that! He’s dark, but I think Stieg Larsson is darker, and I think Peter Hoeg is a better writer. Check out “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”!

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