The Kingdom, by Jo Nesbo.
Jo Nesbo has long been acknowledged among his myriad fans as the master of Scandy Noir, and with logical reason: there is simply no-one better or more consistent at producing quality thrillers of the genre. Every time we pick up a new title it is as satisfying – or even better – than the last.
‘The Kingdom’ belongs to two brothers. It’s what their late father called their remote farm above the village of Os in the Norwegian mountains, and Roy Obsgard lives there alone after his younger brother Carl went to the USA to study for an advanced business degree. Roy has made an adequate life for himself running the local service station, but in the way of all small communities, Os is riven with gossip (what else is there to do but trash whoever is next in line?), and plenty is said about his determinedly single state now he is in his mid-thirties – he’s queer/gay/weird; something’s fishy about the death of his parents, whose Cadillac (Dad liked all things American) slid over a precipice fifteen years before, leaving the boys orphaned.
But Roy presents a face of complete indifference to the rumour-mongers: only he knows the truth of what used to happen after the lights went out at night in the Kingdom; only he knows the real reason his brother fled to America. And he will never tell: he will always protect his little brother.
And he does, as always, when Carl returns unexpectedly from America with his architect wife Shannon, and a get-rich scheme that the whole village can invest in: a luxury hotel and spa built on the brothers’ land, which will rake in tourist kroner for all. Like everyone else, Roy is dazzled by the scope of Carl’s vision and his plans for putting Os on the map – until cracks start appearing in Carl’s charismatic veneer: the contractors have been less than reliable; a road has had to be constructed to the site, taking up a lot of the funds; there have been weather delays. And Architect Shannon has objected to her concrete creation having timbers and trolls added.
Roy will always do his best for his little brother, from comforting him at night to stop the tears, to putting a fatal stop to the reason for them, but history has a way of repeating itself, and he is once again asked to come to his little brother’s rescue, even if it involves murder – this time fuelled by the enormous guilt he also feels for falling in love – with Shannon.
Jo Nesbo has given us huge, Shakespearian characters in a Nordic setting, and at the novel’s end it’s impossible to know if Carl has really profited from the tragedy he has caused, or if Roy will finally become a man, and stop him. FIVE STARS