When Carl returns to his hometown with a mysterious new wife and a business opportunity that seems too good to be true, simmering tensions begin to surface and unexplained deaths in the town's past come under new scrutiny. Soon powerful players set their sights on taking Carl and his brother Roy down by exposing their role in the town's sordid history—But Roy and Carl are survivors, and no strangers to violence.
... a dense, suspenseful bundle of Norwegian noir ... At 549 pages, The Kingdom (named after the Opgard’s family farm) feels as much like a miniseries as a novel. You’re so curious about what the next episode will bring that even if you’ve stepped away from the book for a meal or a good night’s sleep, you feel like one of those 19th-century readers who stormed the New York Harbor, awaiting the arrival of a new installment of a Dickens novel ... The sometimes droll, sometimes eerily affectless, occasionally enraged narrator is Roy ... While brutal emotional injury is at the center of the novel, social change is what keeps the Opgard family saga churning ... Scandinavian noir is famous for its gore, and while The Kingdom isn’t lacking in that department, most of what’s grisly here is psychological. There’s some excellent Albee-esque relational to-ing and fro-ing among Roy, Carl and Shannon, the wife Carl brings to Os from Canada ... Why do mentally healthy readers want to spend time with these godawful people? Writers like Nesbo have that knack for instilling just enough humanity in their miscreants that we keep hoping they might, if not repent, then at least acknowledge their moral scuzziness. Or, being morally imperfect ourselves, we sort of hope they don’t get caught — at least not yet ... Buddhists — and any number of Presbyterians — will know that The Kingdom can only end in one way, and most souls will find Nesbo’s finish both a relief and — don’t look while I flagellate myself — a bit of a disappointment ... Not at all disappointing is the great bulk of this generally mesmerizing novel, including its occasional wit.
The Kingdom is a masterpiece that will hit the mark for crime fiction lovers, and also for readers who don’t swear by any genre... There is intrigue in every direction, as Nesbo recreates each facet of life in a small Norwegian village ... While you read The Kingdom, you’ll sense a deeper current carrying you ... Yet at the same time, Nesbo’s storytelling keeps a whole series of events and characters frothing at the surface, dipping into humour one page and tragedy the next. It all feels immediate and real, so when Roy’s logic gets a little twisted you’ll roll with it because you’ll buy into him, and the rest of the people in Os for that matter. The deeply engaging, skilful storytelling of The Kingdom reminded me of The Little Friend by Donna Tartt.
The closest this book comes to Nesbo’s customary darkness and luridness is a brief scene in which a character disguises himself by wearing the scalp of a dead man whose corpse is later dissolved in a bath of a cleaning fluid called Fritz. And although it’s set in a mountain village in rural Norway, The Kingdom in some ways seems more American in tone than Scandinavian ... [The protagonist is] also a much more leisurely storyteller than the one who narrates the Hole books, and in the beginning the book seems less a mystery story than a Faulknerian saga about sibling rivalry and sexual jealousy ... I think Nesbo also means to suggest that this rural Norway is a place of great natural beauty. The trouble is that he’s not very good at describing it—or Roy isn’t ... The Kingdom begins slowly and only gradually picks up speed, until Roy is swept up in the momentum of his own story. The ending is sudden and startling and—to me, anyway—a bit of a psychological stretch. To get your head around it you have to question everything you thought you knew about the two brothers. The ending also puts you in the morally compromised position of hoping that justice won’t be done. In the much more violent Hole books evil is always exorcised, however briefly, and for that reason they’re much more comforting.