This is the seventh entry in Jo Nesbo's series featuring Norwegian Police Inspector Harry Hole, and it may be the best thus far. Hole, for those who haven't made his acquaintance, is a maverick who prefers to work alone and to play by his own rules. He struggles with alcohol; his personal life is a mess, and, as a practical matter, he lives for his job.
Early in his career, Harry gained some fame, or notoriety as the case may be, for catching a serial killer while he was detailed to a case in Australia. He's the only policeman in Norway ever to have dealt with a serial killer since, as far as anyone knows, there's never been a serial killer in the country. Now, though, that may have changed.
One night, after the first snowfall of the season, a young boy discovers that his mother is missing. To add to the mystery, someone has built a snowman in the family's yard and the snowman is wearing a scarf belonging to the boy's mother.
Harry is assigned to the case, along with his new partner, Katrine Bratt, who has just transferred into the Oslo P.D. from another city. As he digs deeper into the woman's disappearance, Harry discovers that over the years, a total of eleven women have gone missing under similar circumstances. Harry believes that a serial killer is at work, though his bosses remain skeptical, especially since the bodies of the missing women have never been found. The Brass would prefer to believe that the women simply abandoned their families and ran off.
They're forced to reconsider, though, when Harry receives a letter, apparently from the killer, whom the police now dub the Snowman. The Snowman apparently believes that he's the most successful serial killer of all, certainly in Norway, and he seems to want to match wits with Norway's most famous serial killer hunter--Harry Hole. Accordingly, his bosses name Harry to head a small task force to look into the case.
The game is on and it's a very complex and intriguing match between two unorthodox and brilliant protagonists. Nesbo keeps the tension running high throughout the book, which takes a number of unexpected twists and turns. All in all, it's a very entertaining book and Harry Hole continues to be one of the most intriguing protagonists to appear in crime fiction of late. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series.