Anthony McIntyre  🔖 As a devotee of novels featuring the booze addled detective, Harry Hole, I am never dismayed when his creator, Jo Nesbo, creates a hole of a different sort which he then adroitly plugs with characters other than Harry.
 

Nesbo’s standalone novels are invariably worth picking up. For the vintage reader, they should never be reason for disappointment.

The Kingdom is longer than previous departures from Harry Hole, which is perhaps its one weak spot although by no means an Achilles Heel. Just that it takes a bit too long to warm up. For those who persist - and it is recommended that they should - this is quite the story.

The Opgard family is well known in the locality of Os, a fictional small town to the West of Oslo. The idea for the setting seems to have come from the author having parents who hailed from a background that resembled the type of existence described in Os. Nesbo as a youngster often visited the villages and breathed in the culture.

Roy Opgard narrates the story. He has remained at home, situated in a Norwegian mountainy region, working in a roadside service station, while his younger brother Carl had opted to go to the US to study. The boy's Cadillac besotted father had lived in the States for some years while a child. This adds a US twang to the tale although not as pronounced as that in Headhunters. Many residents from Norwegian villages have over the decades emigrated to the States, so the awe with which townsfolk and villagers have viewed the seemingly low hanging fruit across the Atlantic if they can only make it to the Big Apple seeps into the narrative.

Roy had always felt it his duty to look out for his younger sibling when they had lived in the same home, sleeping in a shared bunk bed set. Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder. So when Carl returns from Canada with his wife Shannon, much to the surprise, even the mild irritation, of Roy, he has ideas for building a state of the art hotel on family land. The brothers had inherited the land when their parents died in a car that had plunged over the cliff beside the family home. An accident only for the fact that a number of other cars had taken a similar downward spiral. 

Carl's wife is very much a woman of set ideas. She is the architect and is not open to alternative design plans. Her presence introduces a tension, but not between her and Roy. Where tension exists between them it is of the chemical type. 

Before long, the dark side emerges. There is history here. A sheriff had drowned many years earlier - Sigmund Olsen. His car had veered off the road. His son Kurt, now wearing his late father's badge, is a thorn in the side of Roy, sniffing around places the elder Opgard would rather see off limits. Attired like a US rancher he is as persistent as Shannon is obstinate, particularly when it comes to the death of his father. He feels Roy has created a wall of impenetrability behind which lurks some truth that Kurt intends to extract.

A journalist took to asking questions due to misgivings he harboured about Carl's motives. But there is a relationship factor at play - best described as complicated. The plans for the hotel inevitably create tensions with some locals but is torched before construction is complete. There is a lot of burning in this novel, the result of smouldering passions, easily sparked.

While Roy comes over as an all round likeable guy, the type to pull your car out of a ditch in the small hours during a blizzard, there lurks a suspicion that he might just send your car careering over the side of something deeper than a ditch. While Carl as a child unintentionally shot the family dog, it was Roy who cut its throat to end its misery. To boot, he has form for using his fists. While he no longer goes for the gratuitous violence of his youth, he does uses it, or the threat of it, for a very specific purpose and is ruthlessly calculating while never alienating the reader. In his standalone works Nesbo has a tendency absent from the Hole series of soliciting sympathy for the perpetrators of bad acts.

A tale like this situated in a community thrown together by proximity without being close knit, invariably brings out the skeletons. Familiarity does not just breed contempt, it peels away the protective film that people wrap around the more clandestine aspects of their lives. There is a pulsating tension which when ignited can bring out all the old but never quite forgotten hillbilly hatreds. Murder and child rape have a home in Os.

When Roy becomes as protective of Carl’s wife as he was of Carl, the reader is invited to anticipate the possibility of yet another car joining the junk yard at the bottom of the cliff.

This is The Kingdom of love and murder, themes that weave their way through Nesbo's writing. When the end comes it is quintessential tragedy, where those who win do so only to the extent that they minimise their losses. By the time the curtain closes, amongst those left standing, there are no winners. Everybody loses.

Jo Nesbo, 2020, The Kingdom. Publisher: ‎Harvill Secker. ISBN-13: ‎978-1787300798

 ⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

The Kingdom

Anthony McIntyre  🔖 As a devotee of novels featuring the booze addled detective, Harry Hole, I am never dismayed when his creator, Jo Nesbo, creates a hole of a different sort which he then adroitly plugs with characters other than Harry.
 

Nesbo’s standalone novels are invariably worth picking up. For the vintage reader, they should never be reason for disappointment.

The Kingdom is longer than previous departures from Harry Hole, which is perhaps its one weak spot although by no means an Achilles Heel. Just that it takes a bit too long to warm up. For those who persist - and it is recommended that they should - this is quite the story.

The Opgard family is well known in the locality of Os, a fictional small town to the West of Oslo. The idea for the setting seems to have come from the author having parents who hailed from a background that resembled the type of existence described in Os. Nesbo as a youngster often visited the villages and breathed in the culture.

Roy Opgard narrates the story. He has remained at home, situated in a Norwegian mountainy region, working in a roadside service station, while his younger brother Carl had opted to go to the US to study. The boy's Cadillac besotted father had lived in the States for some years while a child. This adds a US twang to the tale although not as pronounced as that in Headhunters. Many residents from Norwegian villages have over the decades emigrated to the States, so the awe with which townsfolk and villagers have viewed the seemingly low hanging fruit across the Atlantic if they can only make it to the Big Apple seeps into the narrative.

Roy had always felt it his duty to look out for his younger sibling when they had lived in the same home, sleeping in a shared bunk bed set. Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder. So when Carl returns from Canada with his wife Shannon, much to the surprise, even the mild irritation, of Roy, he has ideas for building a state of the art hotel on family land. The brothers had inherited the land when their parents died in a car that had plunged over the cliff beside the family home. An accident only for the fact that a number of other cars had taken a similar downward spiral. 

Carl's wife is very much a woman of set ideas. She is the architect and is not open to alternative design plans. Her presence introduces a tension, but not between her and Roy. Where tension exists between them it is of the chemical type. 

Before long, the dark side emerges. There is history here. A sheriff had drowned many years earlier - Sigmund Olsen. His car had veered off the road. His son Kurt, now wearing his late father's badge, is a thorn in the side of Roy, sniffing around places the elder Opgard would rather see off limits. Attired like a US rancher he is as persistent as Shannon is obstinate, particularly when it comes to the death of his father. He feels Roy has created a wall of impenetrability behind which lurks some truth that Kurt intends to extract.

A journalist took to asking questions due to misgivings he harboured about Carl's motives. But there is a relationship factor at play - best described as complicated. The plans for the hotel inevitably create tensions with some locals but is torched before construction is complete. There is a lot of burning in this novel, the result of smouldering passions, easily sparked.

While Roy comes over as an all round likeable guy, the type to pull your car out of a ditch in the small hours during a blizzard, there lurks a suspicion that he might just send your car careering over the side of something deeper than a ditch. While Carl as a child unintentionally shot the family dog, it was Roy who cut its throat to end its misery. To boot, he has form for using his fists. While he no longer goes for the gratuitous violence of his youth, he does uses it, or the threat of it, for a very specific purpose and is ruthlessly calculating while never alienating the reader. In his standalone works Nesbo has a tendency absent from the Hole series of soliciting sympathy for the perpetrators of bad acts.

A tale like this situated in a community thrown together by proximity without being close knit, invariably brings out the skeletons. Familiarity does not just breed contempt, it peels away the protective film that people wrap around the more clandestine aspects of their lives. There is a pulsating tension which when ignited can bring out all the old but never quite forgotten hillbilly hatreds. Murder and child rape have a home in Os.

When Roy becomes as protective of Carl’s wife as he was of Carl, the reader is invited to anticipate the possibility of yet another car joining the junk yard at the bottom of the cliff.

This is The Kingdom of love and murder, themes that weave their way through Nesbo's writing. When the end comes it is quintessential tragedy, where those who win do so only to the extent that they minimise their losses. By the time the curtain closes, amongst those left standing, there are no winners. Everybody loses.

Jo Nesbo, 2020, The Kingdom. Publisher: ‎Harvill Secker. ISBN-13: ‎978-1787300798

 ⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

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