Oslo, New Year’s Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion, and the city is put on terrorist alert. Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, she is identified as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Smeplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier and never found. Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia’s disappearance is not all that it seems…
Having thoroughly enjoyed Death Deserved, the first in the Alexander Blix/Emma Ramm series, the crime writing powerhouse of Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst return, with another twisty and intriguing thriller…
Once again drawing on their own careers, Horst as an ex-police officer and Enger’s as a journalist, this book again demonstrates the wealth of experience they have garnered in these fields. Consequently, when you break the story down into the component parts featuring police officer Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm, this feeling of complete authenticity permeates the whole book. Not only is it so effective how these two streams are perfectly balanced and insightful, but how the two writers so seamlessly blend together their particular fields of expertise into a contiguous whole. As the paths of Blix and Ramm merge and separate throughout the book as their individual investigations into the books events develop, there is an equal balance in the story between the two protagonists’ experience, cleverly giving the reader a panoramic vision of how their contrasting worlds of work are aligned, and the clear osmosis between the two.
The book is fuelled by a quick paced energy, not least because of the literally explosive opening scenes and the consequences of this for the two main characters. As a connection is made to a cold case, we see the sure and steady investigative credentials of Alexander Ramm kick in, once again revealing him as a determined, professional and thorough investigator. He works with a skilful combination of balanced reasoning and whip-smart intuition, and is a solid presence throughout. There are some nice little interludes involving the renewed presence of his daughter in his life which lighten the emotional intensity of the book, and of course his complicated and established platonic relationship with the young journalist Emma Ramm, adds another layer of texture to the plot. Undoubtedly, this investigation impacts greatly on Ramm, both personally and professionally, and despite understandable emotional distress as she experiences a close bereavement, her propensity to pull herself up by the bootstraps and get stuck in to this extremely testing, and at times dangerous, investigation is admirable. Her intelligence and intuition again work in parity with Blix, with their contrasting approaches, and as they close in on some unpalatable aspects of the case, neither is averse to putting themselves into the line of fire.
As is expected with two established award winning crime authors, the plotting is sublime throughout, with many a clever and nifty twist to this investigation, exhibiting the fluidity and balance of them writing together. As someone who reads a large amount of Scandinavian crime, there is always a little touch of the unexpected and the surprising to both this series and in the books they author alone, making them firm favourites of mine. The contrasts and similarities between the chosen professions of Blix and Ramm work together wonderfully well, and as always the setting and atmosphere of Oslo is rendered in vivid detail as a backdrop to this intriguing tale. A pitch perfect translation by Megan Turney, completely adds to the overall enjoyment of the book too.
If you have not picked up Death Deserved yet, please do, and hastily follow it up with Smoke Screen. You will not be disappointed…
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)
THOMAS ENGER is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of five books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017. Rights have been sold to Germany and Iceland. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.
JØRN LIER HORST Having worked as a police officer and head of investigations before becoming a full-time writer, he has established himself as one of the most successful authors to come out of Scandinavia. His books have sold over two million copies in his native Norway alone and he’s published in twenty-six languages. The Wisting series, produced by the team behind Wallander and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was a hit BBC series in 2019.
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