Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I've Finished Reading: The Snowman

Here’s a question: Can a single scene in a novel ruin the whole experience?

To qualify, I don’t mean a bad ending. I think we’d all agree that a stupid conclusion can spoil anything that has come before. What I’m asking here is whether a scene in the beginning or middle, if poorly done or out of character, can taint the rest of the novel … even if the novel is overall good?

Yeah, I think it can.

And thus this brings me to The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (sorry, the author’s name has some special Scandinavian letters that I can’t duplicate here).

The Snowman is a reasonably good thriller set in Oslo. I think there’s a current trend for a lot of mystery/horror translations from this area, and while Nesbo’s novel is good, it’s certainly not of the quality of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But still, it’s a well crafted plot and interesting characters.

However, there is one scene about midway through which made me roll my eyes and groan. Briefly, a possible victim of the serial killer is running away, axe in hand, in the woods surrounding her house and in this tense moment of the possibility of escape, she … wait for it … gets her ankle caught in some sort of wire loop – an animal trap that her own husband had installed and that she knew about. Ah, but worst, she can’t seem to free herself.

Oh please! Any attempt at making the killer look sinister and devious and unstoppable throughout the whole first half of the novel is ruined by this stupid twist. Now it just seems like his victims are idiots. I lost my sympathy for her plight. I lost my awe of the genius evil killer. And I certainly lost my respect for the author’s plot.

I did keep reading though. The novel is written well enough to hold my interest, even after this big letdown. But my heart really wasn’t into it anymore. I kept fearing another one of these convenient stupid accidents.

That’s a shame. I really wanted to like this book. In the end, however, that one bad scene made a handful of other questionable scenes seem that much more unbelievable.

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