cover image The Night House

The Night House

Jo Nesbø, trans. from the Norwegian by Neil Smith. Knopf, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-53716-9

Bestselling crime writer Nesbø takes a break from his Harry Hole detective series with this wild and ambitious but not entirely successful three-part horror opus. The first and longest section is narrated by Richard Elauved, a rambunctious 14-year-old orphan who delights in playing pranks and manipulating gullible school chums in the small town of Ballantyne. After two friends disappear in his presence under horrifying and otherworldly circumstances, Richard fails to convince incredulous authorities that the supernatural was involved. Instead, he’s whisked away to the Rorrim Correctional Facility for Young People. After the distinct and intentional YA vibe of this opening, Nesbø pulls the rug out from under the reader in the novel’s second section, skewing the tale in a different direction that sheds light on possible sources for some of the earlier horrors even as it serves up new ones. Then, Nesbø does it again in a third section whose rationalizations for all of the preceding weirdness are disappointingly anticlimactic. Nesbø shows a sure hand at crafting moments of terror, but only his most devoted readers won’t cock an eyebrow at the bait-and-switch plotting. Despite some memorable individual scares, horror aficionados are likely to grow frustrated with this. (Oct.)