WEDNESDAY, 5 NOVEMBER 1980.
It was the day the snow came. At eleven o’clock in the morning, large flakes appeared from a colourless sky and invaded the fields, gardens and lawns of Romerike like an armada from outer space. At two, the snowploughs were in action in Lillestrøm, and when, at half past two, Sara Kvinesland slowly and carefully steered her Toyota Corolla SR5 between the detached houses in Kolloveien, the November snow was lying like a down duvet over the rolling countryside.
She was thinking that the houses looked different in daylight. So different that she almost passed his drive. The car skidded as she applied the brakes, and she heard a groan from the back seat. In the rear-view mirror she saw her son’s disgruntled face.
‘It won’t take long, my love,’ she said.
In front of the garage there was a large patch of black tarmac amid all the white, and she realised that the removal van had been there. Her throat constricted. She hoped she wasn’t too late.
‘Who lives here?’ came from the back seat.
‘Just someone I know,’ Sara said, automatically checking her hair in the mirror. ‘Ten minutes, my love. I’ll leave the key in the ignition so you can listen to the radio.’
She went without waiting for a response, slithered in her slippery shoes up to the door she had been through so many times, but never like this, not in the middle of the day, in full view of all the neighbours’ prying eyes. Not that late-night visits would seem any more innocent, but for some reason acts of this kind felt more appropriate when performed after the fall of darkness.
She heard the buzz of the doorbell inside, like a bumblebee in a jam jar. Feeling her desperation mount, she glanced at the windows of the neighbouring houses. They gave nothing away, just returned reflections of bare black apple trees, grey sky and milky-white terrain. Then, at last, she heard footsteps behind the door and heaved a sigh of relief. The next moment she was inside and in his arms.
‘Don’t go, darling,’ she said, hearing the sob already straining at her vocal cords.
‘I have to,’ he said in a monotone that suggested a refrain he had tired of long ago. His hands sought familiar paths, of which they never tired.
‘No, you don’t,’ she whispered into his ear. ‘But you want to. You don’t dare any longer.’
‘This has nothing to do with you and me.’
She could hear the irritation creeping into his voice at the same time as his hand, the strong but gentle hand, slid down over her spine and inside the waistband of her skirt and tights. They were like a pair of practised dancers who knew their partner’s every move, step, breath, rhythm. First, the white lovemaking. The good one. Then the black one. The pain.
His hand caressed her coat, searching for her nipple under the thick material. He was eternally fascinated by her nipples; he always returned to them. Perhaps it was because he didn’t have any himself.
‘Did you park in front of the garage?’ he asked with a firm tweak.
She nodded and felt the pain shoot into her head like a dart of pleasure. Her sex had already opened for the fingers which would soon be there. ‘My son’s waiting in the car.’
His hand came to an abrupt halt.
‘He knows nothing,’ she groaned, sensing his hand falter.
‘And your husband? Where’s he now?’
‘Where do you think? At work of course.’
Now it was she who sounded irritated. Both because he had brought her husband into the conversation and it was difficult for her to say anything at all about him without getting irritated, and because her body needed him, quickly. Sara Kvinesland opened his flies.
‘Don’t . . .’ he began, grabbing her around the wrist. She slapped him hard with her other hand. He looked at her in amazement as a red flush spread across his cheek. She smiled, grabbed his thick black hair and pulled his face down to hers.
‘You can go,’ she hissed. ‘But first you have to shag me. Is that understood?’
She felt his breath against her face. It was coming in hefty gasps now. Again she slapped him with her free hand, and his dick was growing in her other.
He thrust, a bit harder each time, but it was over now. She was numb, the magic was gone, the tension had dissolved and all that was left was despair. She was losing him. Now, as she lay there, she had lost him. All the years she had yearned, all the tears she had cried, the desperate things he had made her do. Without giving anything back. Except for one thing.
He was standing at the foot of the bed and taking her with closed eyes. Sara stared at his chest. To begin with, she had thought it strange, but after a while she had begun to like the sight of unbroken white skin over his pectoral muscles. It reminded her of old statues where the nipples had been omitted out of consideration for public modesty.
His groans were getting louder. She knew that soon he would let out a furious roar. She had loved that roar. The ever-surprised, ecstatic, almost pained expression as though the orgasm surpassed his wildest expectation each and every time. Now she was waiting for the final roar, a bellowing farewell to his freezing box of a bedroom divested of pictures, curtains and carpets. Then he would get dressed and travel to a different part of the country where he said he had been offered a job he couldn’t say no to. But he could say no to this. This. And still he would roar with pleasure.
She closed her eyes. But the roar didn’t come. He had stopped.
‘What’s up?’ she asked, opening her eyes. His features were distorted alright. But not with pleasure.
‘A face,’ he whispered.
She flinched. ‘Where?’
‘Outside the window.’
The window was at the other end of the bed, right above her head. She heaved herself round, felt him slip out, already limp. From where she was lying, the window above her head was set too high in the wall for her to see out. And too high for anyone to stand outside and peer in. Because of the already dwindling daylight all she could see was the double-exposed reflection of the ceiling lamp.
‘You saw yourself,’ she said, almost pleading.
‘That was what I thought at first,’ he said, still staring at the window.
Sara pulled herself up onto her knees. Got up and looked into the garden. And there, there was the face.
She laughed out loud with relief. The face was white, with eyes and a mouth made with black pebbles, probably from the drive. And arms made from twigs off the apple trees.
‘Heavens,’ she gasped. ‘It’s only a snowman.’
Then her laugh turned into tears; she sobbed helplessly until she felt his arms around her.
‘I have to go now,’ she sobbed.
‘Stay for a little while longer,’ he said.
She stayed for a little while longer.
As Sara approached the garage she saw that almost forty minutes had passed.
He had promised to ring now and then. He had always been a good liar, and for once she was glad. Even before she got to the car she saw her son’s pale face staring at her from the back seat. She pulled at the door and found to her astonishment that it was locked. She peered in at him through steamed-up windows. He only opened it when she knocked on the glass.
She sat in the driver’s seat. The radio was silent and it was ice-cold inside. The key was on the passenger seat. She turned to him. Her son was pale, and his lower lip was trembling.
‘Is there anything wrong?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I saw him.’
There was a thin, shrill tone of horror in his voice that she couldn’t recall hearing since he was a little boy jammed between them on the sofa in front of the TV with his hands over his eyes. And now his voice was changing, he had stopped giving her a goodnight hug and had started being interested in car engines and girls. And one day he would get in a car with one of them and also leave her.
‘What do you mean?’ she said, inserting the key in the ignition and turning.
‘The snowman . . .’
There was no response from the engine and panic gripped her without warning. Quite what she was afraid of, she didn’t know. She stared out of the windscreen and turned the key again. Had the battery died?
‘And what did the snowman look like?’ she asked, pressing the accelerator to the floor and desperately turning the key so hard it felt as though she would break it. He answered, but his answer was drowned by the roar of the engine.
Sara put the car in gear and let go of the clutch as if in a sudden hurry to get away. The wheels spun in the soft, slushy snow. She accelerated harder, but the rear of the car slid sideways. By then the tyres had spun their way down to the tarmac and they lurched forward and skidded into the road.
‘Dad’s waiting for us,’ she said. ‘We’ll have to get a move on.’
She switched on the radio and turned up the volume to fill the cold interior with sounds other than her own voice. A newsreader said for the hundredth time today that last night Ronald Reagan had beaten Jimmy Carter in the American election.
The boy said something again, and she glanc...
Revue de presse
— The Sunday Times
"Many authors know how to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Jo Nesbø's one of the few who keeps them there."
— Linwood Barclay
“The Snowman is a superb thriller. Jo Nesbø is astonishingly good; he knows how to grab you, by the throat and by the heart.”
— Jeff Abbott
"The Snowman is a masterpiece."
— Der Spiegel (Germany)
"Nesbø writes in a way that has adrenaline pumping through your veins. The Snowman is the kind of book you devour in one greedy gulp, and that stays with you long after you've put it down. And all that is left is a plea to the author, from all of us who are deeply hooked on Harry Hole: More, Nesbø, more!"
— Fredriksstad Blad (Norway)
“With Henning Mankell having written his last Wallander novel and Stieg Larsson no longer with us, I have had to make the decision, to my own satisfaction, on whom to confer the title of best current Nordic writer of crime fiction. After finishing Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, I hesitate no longer. The Norwegian wins. . . . This is crime writing of the highest order, in which the characters are as strong as the story, where an atmosphere of evil permeates, and the tension begins in the first chapter and never lets up.”
— The Times
“The Snowman is certainly the most disturbing of Nesbø’s books, with a spine-chilling quality that evokes the English master of the macabre, M.R. James. . . . With its tensile-steel narrative grip, this most ambitious of Nesbø’s crime novels banishes any fears that the omniscient serial killer scenario has been exhausted.”
— The Independent