behind closed doors in Norway

“Their domain” (Kongeriket), by Jo Nesbo, translated from Norwegian by Céline Romand-Monnier, Gallimard, “Série noire”, 636 p., € 22, digital € 16.

It is a slow novel, which takes its time to instill a stifling atmosphere, that of family closed doors full of heavy secrets. Carl and Roy are two orphan brothers who live in a “Farmhouse” isolated. They were 16 and 17 when their parents’ vehicle fell into a ravine just below their house. Roy, the older brother, gruff and complexed, became a mechanic. He survives after taking over the last gas station in the area. Her younger brother, Carl, the “star” of the village who had a series of successes and female conquests, left for Canada to study economics.

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When he returned to the village, several years later, he was a bit like the prodigal son. At the wheel of a beautiful car and with his bewitching wife, he envisions a pharaonic project: the construction of a luxury hotel, up there, on the mountain. For this, it needs the support – financial – of the community. Over the weeks, the work does not advance but the strange deaths follow one another and the two brothers reveal an increasingly disturbing face.

Progression crescendo

With Their domain, the Norwegian Jo Nesbo abandons the classic codes of the thriller. Difficult, in fact, to offer a more dissimilar thriller from the series Harry Hole, named after the cop with multiple dependencies made familiar by twelve works translated into French (Gaïa, 2002-2005, Gallimard, 2006-2019). The investigations of this antihero were narrated on a lively pace and punctuated by multiple twists. Here, the plot is unraveled only in the last third of the book and follows a crescendo progression. The character profiles are almost clichés from North American teenage series: the grumpy with a big heart, the handsome kid and the femme fatale.

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But, far from being caricatural or sluggish, Nesbo’s novel draws an oppressive love triangle and social confinement: in Their domain, it is impossible to get out of its condition or its vices. Even less of his family. Only death appears as a way out. “What exactly was a family?” A story that was told to each other because the family was necessary, because, over the course of several millennia, it had functioned as a unit of cooperation. Or was there something besides the strictly pragmatic, something in the blood that united us with our parents and our siblings? “, asks Roy, the narrator, who has an unfortunate tendency to justify the unjustifiable. With a certain dose of cynicism, Jo Nesbo ultimately paints an acid portrait of family values ​​and especially brotherly love.

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