A collection of short stories and novellas from one of the best Scandi writers around? Count me in. I think I actually drooled at the idea of an anthology of self-contained tales from the dark side by the author who gave us the Harry Hole series and superb standalone novels like the ridiculously brilliant Headhunters. But these 12 stories form a very mixed bag indeed…
Despite the alluring / misleading promo blurb, none of these stories features HH himself. They’re loosely assembled along two themes, ‘jealousy’ and ‘power’. The first group are mainly conventional crime-thrillers while the second section explores more dystopian and speculative territory. Few are set in Nesbø’s native Nordic neck of the woods. Instead, they feel like the type of tale inspired by exotic holidays in warmer climates.
The first of them even takes place on a plane – and it’s tightly-wound and perfectly plotted; a superb demonstration of the art of the succinct quick thriller with more surprises than the average novel crammed into compact package. It might be the best in the whole book, however. Several of the others would’ve benefited from the same tight focus and sharp editing; a couple ramble around aimlessly, it seems. Here’s a link to a free-to-dowload (at the time of posting) ebook of The Confession — this is one of the brisk, tightly-twisted tales and is all the better for its brevity. And it’s almost certainly a knowing tribute to Roald Dahl’s classic, ‘Lamb to the Slaughter‘!
You certainly get your money’s worth: there’s plenty of reading matter in the entire anthology. But I can’t help feeling that some of the stories would’ve been better if they were shorter – where the ideas are stretched wafer-thin I was actually a bit bored by the time the denouement rolled around.
At times, this book feels like an author expunging his personal, pandemic-induced paranoia onto paper. The collapse of ordered society has been covered plenty of times before. Nesbø’s exploration of revenge and justice – while entertaining in places – didn’t uncover any human truths that weren’t discussed at length in, say, Day Of The Triffids…
Not the best introduction to this author, then. However, it does escape the usual problem with short story anthologies by a single writer – where they all feel far too similar. There’s plenty of variety here, and some fleeting glimpses of Nesbø’s imaginative accomplishment; not least in the title story which features a world-weary detective with an unusual investigative angle. So The Jealousy Man makes for an interesting addition to the bookshelf if you’re already a fan.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbø is available at Amazon
If you enjoy killer quick thrillers…
…meet an unconventional assassin in The Stoner Stories