This stunning slow burning thriller is a standalone book from huge multi-national bestseller Jo Nesbo. His popular crime busting hero Harry Hole is absent here, as is Harry’s sophisticated and decadent stomping ground, Oslo. Instead we have a wonderfully deep and dark saga set in a small, remote mountain village in rural Norway, a mean spirited and narrow-minded place of long held grudges and animosities which have simmered for generations.
It’s the story of two brothers: quiet, taciturn Roy, who’s lived in the village all his life, alone and aloof, making a modest living from managing the small local service garage; and his returning younger sibling Carl (whose middle name is Abel; Biblical hints at bitter fraternal jealousy here?) who, having left the village as a teenager to attend college in the United States, has gone on to become a big-shot property dealer in Canada.
Handsome, charming and popular, all attributes Roy lacks, Carl arrives back at the shabby, ramshackle family home with a beautiful wife and a plan to make his fortune by building a luxury spa hotel in the village, on the rocky, useless family land owned by the brothers, which their dead, brutal father called “The Kingdom.” To raise capital, Carl plans to persuade the whole village, poor as they are, to invest. The villagers, excited by Carl’s return, are agog at his plans.
But there’s much dark and murderous family history in this story, which begins to resurface after Carl’s return. Why is there a car containing the bodies of Roy and Carl’s parents at the bottom of a local ravine? What happened to the Sheriff who investigated the wreck? What other murky feuds and tragedies lurk in this quiet village?
Nesbo’s skill in depicting the gripping tensions of small town life remind us both of Stephen King. Unsurprisingly, King loves The Kingdom, and says he couldn’t put it down. Neither could we.