Book Review, Novel | “The Bodyguard”: Bloody at the castle

Book Review, Novel | “The Bodyguard”: Bloody at the castle
Book Review, Novel | “The Bodyguard”: Bloody at the castle

“Livvakten” is Tove Taalesen’s second crime from the inner mijø of the Royal Palace in Oslo. The plot revolves around the Norwegian queen, for the occasion her name is Ingeborg. She and her closest colleagues will open a spectacular and shocking art exhibition within a day. The country’s art elite and everything that can crawl and walk like ambassadors will be at the opening. Which is actually a kind of cover for something quite different, namely negotiations that could end the war in Ukraine. The Queen is involved, so is the US First Lady.

This is a novel far removed from political realism, but who said that crime fiction has to be embarrassingly realistic. So many crime books are published in Norway that you get the feeling of avoiding serial killers at work, in the neighborhood and on the tram. It’s not like that.

Money sucks

The book publishers are a stock exchange on one side and a cathedral on the other. There is money in crime and thus new talents are constantly emerging who want to follow Jo Nesbø and Unni Lindell in the industry. Everyone has realized that these two and many other crime writers earn millions from their crime novels. That the money is tight – also in the publishing world should not surprise anyone… Tove Taalesen with “Livvakten” is probably not the strongest contender for now, but the book is quite well written and occasionally quite exciting. And Taalesen has a big advantage. She has previously been employed as a lackey at the castle. She therefore knows hallways and corridors, interior details and details about what is served when and to whom. In itself fun to read about.

A lot to keep in order

The challenge in “Livvakten” is to keep order with all the people we meet. The two most important are the bodyguard, Tormod Beyer and Kaare Stampe, who is the drama’s Bad boy with a big B! Stampe is employed at the court and has ambitions to become head of court. He intrigues and manipulates and has hidden agendas. And he kills people. We meet Stampe in a prologue. It’s back in 2008. He and a gang of boys kill a colored man and rape his wife. Which is white. Stampe is a full-blooded racist with no normal inhibitions about what is right and wrong. This initial murder does not actually appear in the further plot and it is clearly not explained either. This is hardly credible.

The opening of an art exhibition of the shocking kind, – with many ambassadors and the Norwegian art fife in place, is the prelude to a dramatic day at the castle. At the same time, the Norwegian Queen Ingeborg will be part of the host for Russian-Ukrainian peace negotiations. The sum of this is, of course, a formidable security challenge. There is a fear of terrorism among those responsible for security at the castle. This is the backdrop for much of the action, which includes a little too many actors. One of these is the queen’s trusted lackey Tale Voss, an art connoisseur with a tremendously good memory. Bodyguard Beyer and she have a possible love affair going on. Court Chief Høegh is healthy, but manages the court bureaucratically and convolutedly – much to the annoyance of the ambitious Stampe. The court chief has a relationship with the queen, who is a widow. Queen Ingeborg is sympathetically portrayed, but is not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to human and security details. Everyone has their own motives in one way or another and every time I felt I had an overview, new and complicating factors came sailing in. Anne Brenna for example, investigative journalist and documentary maker with violent forces on the far right as a speciality. The brother has been Minister of Justice, sits in the Storting and is almost a housemate at the castle. Anne Brenna has managed to infiltrate a militant far-right group. That means she lives dangerously. All these ingredients and a few more are mixed together in the same pot. It is a formidable job to bring it all to a logical and believable conclusion. It works in a way, but no more than that. People who know their blues lyrics know the refrain: “To many cooks can spoil the stew”. Many crime writers do well to keep that in mind.

Born that way or become that way?

We learn quite a bit about the bodyguard, Tormod Beyer. He is actually a fairly traditional policeman, divorced from a capable policewoman and significantly traumatized. Beyer was one of the police officers sent to Utøya on 22 July 2011. He has a black conscience for his and his colleagues’ insufficient efforts to prevent the mass murders. As a novel character, he is strictly speaking not very interesting.

Kaare Stampe, on the other hand, is not a bad novel character. So he is a racist with a lot of hatred inside him. I won’t divulge all the monstrosities he contributes, but why is he like that? Born that way or become that way – that is the question. We don’t really get to know anything about that. We know that he took a hotel training course in Switzerland and that he otherwise came from a fairly ordinary middle-class background. We also know that the father remarried and had a daughter with his Filipino wife. Stampe thus has a half-sister whom he hates deeply. For some reason. The character Stampe the author could have successfully explored and made more complete and understandable for the reader. He was hardly born a racist, misogynistic serial killer. And there is no indication in his background of the way he is going forward. His contact with a far-reaching international organization is also not explained well enough in my opinion.

“The bodyguard” is bloody

In conclusion: This is a violent book. It already starts in the prologue where the young Kaare Stampe and his gang kill and rape. The high level of violence continues right to the end. For the record: I’m not a picky eater who can’t stand blood and gore in a crime novel. But there are actually certain scenes where, in my opinion, the violence is unnecessarily rough. It may seem as if the author wants to emphasize at the end that Stampe is a serial killer. The classic serial killer that we know from American crime often leaves something on the deceased, takes trophies in the form of jewelery or body parts or arranges the victim in a special way.

Kaare Stampe fulfills all stereotypical expectations of a serial killer in “Livvakten”.

Tove Taalesen certainly has something going on as a crime writer and the language is energetic and good. The challenge is to tighten up and sharpen the plot. The fact that she knows the inner workings of the castle in Oslo from her own job is of course a big advantage. No one can catch her on room allocation and cover-up routines. I will not be surprised if there is more “castle crime” from Taalesen.

Jan Øyvind Helgesen is a regular book reviewer for Nettavisen.

About Jan Øyvind Helgesen

Jan Øyvind Helgesen is a dedicated book lover and reading horse. He has been a full-time journalist since 1979, in Arbeiderbladet, Økonomisk Rapport, VG and TV 2. In recent years, he was presenter of God Morgen Norge and Nyhetskanalen on TV 2.

Now he spends a lot of time showing his own and other people’s shows around – when he is not disappearing into a new book.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Book Review Bodyguard Bloody castle


PREV Lack of breast milk The trend is reversing and more people will donate:
NEXT That’s why Hyper made podcasts about unpleasant feelings