- 16 Dec 21
The Best Thing To Come Out Of Norway Since Fårikål.
I can’t tell you much about Nesbo’s previous short story collection Karusellmusikk – my Norwegian is not what it should be – but if this compendium of jealousy, greed, twists and violence is anything to go by, it's probably brilliant. A caveat for potential investors first, though. Nesbo's boozy and brooding detective Harry Hole doesn’t appear, but frankly, he isn’t required, and a bit of rest and recovery probably won't do him any harm. He went right through the wringer in Knife.
Straight out of the departure gate, ‘London’ has Shaun and Maria meeting on a plane only for a previously arranged contract with a suicide agency - a very Nesboian notion - to throw a spanner at their burgeoning love. The story also finds room for René Girard's memetic theory of desire - we desire that which others desire, through imitation - which Maria uses as reason for not taking her own life, which is pretty impressive footwork. You could say the same about the clever use of the face mask that has now become, like your phone and your keys, one of the things we check our pockets for before leaving the house, in 'The Line' where an immigrant convenience store worker, who knows a thing or two about waiting her turn, has had enough, and reacts in a fairly demonstrative way to a racist idiot. The hangover that raises a did he/didn't he smokescreen in 'Trash' is equally impressive and - more importantly - entertaining.
A modicum of research tells me that Nesbo, before he banjaxed up his knee, was a professional footballer. Let me clear my throat here so - ahem - before I speculate that he was, perhaps, a goalkeeper because he certainly is a safe pair of hands when it comes to spinning yarns. ("That's some thin ice, Carty" - Ed.) He could have stretched anything here out to book length - especially the bloody revenge novella 'Rat Island', which documents a post pandemic world where the the super rich like Colin Love are heading for islands of safety until the actions of his arsehole son send things into a spin - and no one would have been complaining.
'Black Knight' and 'The Antidote' are both better than the last five movies you saw, combined. In the former, the marvellous plot is set in the Milan of the future where the corporations have taken over, hired killers are a business tool, and two of the best play a cat and mouse (and dog) chess game with a side order of hypnotism. The latter is the kind of thing Hemingway might have knocked out on a particularly good day stood at his desk. Ken Abbot was given too much in life and ends up in bad shape. First of all he loses fifteen-million pounds of the bank-he-works-for's money, which signals the end of their relationship, and then his drug-driven spiral continues when he makes a ridiculous World Cup bet. His recently-divorced father, Emerson, has sold his publishing business and purchased a snake farm in Botswana. The son reluctantly takes the job offered by the father when he has nowhere else to turn. If I tell you any more I'll give the game away - although perhaps the snakes that Emerson watch devour their young to survive might offer a slight clue - but it's worth the price of the book on its own and it is, like everything else between these covers, evidence of a master of the form at work.