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Epub ISBN: 9781409089650
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Copyright © Jo Nesbø 2007
English translation copyright © Don Bartlett 2010
Jo Nesbø has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
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First published with the title
by H. Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by
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About the Author
Jo Nesbø is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson).
is the fifth of Nesbø’s novels to be translated into English.
Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen and Pernille Rygg.
ALSO BY JO NESBØ
The Devil’s Star
For Kirsten Hammervoll NesbøTHE SNOWMAN
FROM THE NORWEGIAN
WEDNESDAY, 5 NOVEMBER 1980.
T WAS THE DAY THE SNOW CAME
T 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.