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by Jo Nesbo and Robert Ferguson, tran.
Knopf, November 2020
560 pages
ISBN: 0525655417

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jo Nesbo usually writes thrillers which begin with a horrific crime and then follow its effects and the struggle to solve the crime. In THE KINGDOM, this Norwegian master of Nordic noir has created a novel in which the horror of the plot unfolds little by little. Narrated by Roy Opgard, a car mechanic, the tale of how he and his younger brother Carl grew up and what happened to them and to their parents is shown in both the present and the past. The story is peopled by the characters of their small mountain town of Os, and these characters resonate back and forth in time. The air is heavy with suspicion. Roy’s father had lived in the states, favored American chewing tobacco, and drives a Cadillac, an impractical vehicle on the icy curving roads of the area. One day his car skids off the road into an impenetrable ravine near their mountain-top goat farm, killing him and his wife. The brothers are orphans, but bit by bit, we see that the normal veneer of a family group had been penetrated by a hideous revelation. So we wonder--what really happened to Roy and Carl’s parents? Then, when misgivings arise--what really happened to the sheriff? What secrets do the brothers share?

Carl leaves to go to school in America and returns many years later with a wife and grandiose plans to develop their farm into a huge hotel. His beautiful exotic wife Shannon is an architect, and it is her plan for the hotel that he is hoping to execute. But when the town gets involved in underwriting the cost, her plan is changed little by little. The repercussions of these changes play out over time.

Both brothers have grown into violent, amoral men, but Roy and Carl care most about not bringing shame on themselves in the eyes of the town. What they do does not matter to them as much as how they are perceived by the others. And blood, family blood, is the strongest tie, although it is mainly the bond between the brothers that is most important.

The treacherous ravine with the slippery road curve on top becomes a character in its own right, as sabotaged cars slide off into it and kill their occupants at an alarming rate. The current sheriff, whose own father was also the sheriff, is highly suspicious of the brothers, but he cannot prove anything. His father had disappeared many years ago, and the clues had pointed toward suicide, but he never believed that his father would have taken his own life. And the readers know the murderous truth, told by Roy as part of a series of deeds he reveals in his emotionless prose.

This is a disturbing book to read, as the murders pile up and the complications of the plot show no chance of being solved in other ways. Who will die next and how will the brothers continue to manipulate their way out from under a constant cloud of suspicion? These questions keep us engaged to the very end—and beyond.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, January 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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