I was slightly cursing the fact that all these novels weren't translated and published in order while reading this Harry Hole novel. The Devil's Star was technically the fifth in the series, and this is the 7th, but the sixth won't be published in the States till May. The good thing about Nesbo is that even when he refers back to his older novels, he simply alludes to things but doesn't completely give things away. Still, it took me some to get caught up with this one since two characters that were alive and kicking at the end of The Devil's Star are now deceased, another one has had a baby and Harry has even moved offices. Harry and Rakel have once again broken up, and since I'm unsure what their status in the previous novel was, I have to say that Rakel and Harry have an odd relationship. Harry considers Rakel the love of his life, but as far as the reader is concerned they are never together - they met in The Redbreast, were dating in Nemesis though she was in Russia for almost the entire novel, had broken up prior to The Devil's Star only to get back together by the end, and here are once again, broken up. In fact, Rakel is even seeing someone new and it is relatively serious. Obviously, more drama can be gained from misery but I wouldn't mind having them actually together for at least a novel or two so their relationship would have more meaning.
The novel begins with a short scene in 1980 during which a married woman visits her lover one last time before he leaves town while her son waits in the car. She notices a snowman outside the window before returning to the car and her frightened seeming son. From there, the novel flashes forward to 2004 where the novel introduces another young boy whose mother disappears by the next morning, leaving no trace and only a newly built snowman in the front lawn. Based on a letter Hole received in the mail earlier that fall, he wonders whether there is a potential serial killer on the loose, and his research takes him back to a case in 1992. Another woman goes missing soon after as well, and once again there is a snowman connection.
The novel had some good twists though I guessed the identity of the killer somewhat early on. Of course, Nesbo often reveals more information to his readers than his inspector has, though he occasionally uses this to misdirect the reader as well. I guess it basically happens in every mystery novel but there are a few false starts and suspects that are of course not the killer. While I understand how the evidence points towards certain people, it seems like in Nesbo's novels sometimes the characters believe incredibly strongly in the guilt of the wrong people. It would be a short novel if there weren't a few missteps but it bugged me in Nemesis when Hole became super focused on a possible suspect, and it bugged me a bit here when a person who appeared to have something to hide suddenly became a huge focus for a different detective. These points all work together, and the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion, it's just a small pet peeve about the genre in general sometimes. I think it's just because I'm used to intricate twists and turns as a consumer of this type of media even though in reality, the simplest answer probably is the solution (ie, I felt the same way about Veronica Mars in season 2 or 3 - Mars kept following the wrong suspects but she really believed they were the right guy, and she seemed too smart for that). I can't wait to read the next one which is actually also the next one in reality, and not just the next one available in the US.