Jorn Lier Horst/ Thomas Enger- Death Deserved #BlogTour

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV. Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing. Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention. Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

In a stroke of genius, two of the most recognisable and talented Norwegian crime writers, Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst have joined forces to produce Death Deserved, and what a collaboration it is.  Centring on a series of murders targeting well known personalities, the story ( the first of a series) sees a mirroring of the writer’s own specialities in their crime fiction. Jorn Lier Horst is an ex-policeman, author of the hugely successful William Wisting series so naturally the joint main protagonist is a detective, Alexander Blix. Equally, Thomas Enger known for the compelling series featuring a journalist, Henning Juul, brings his knowledge and familiarity with the world of media to Blix’s co-protagonist journalist Emma Ramm. With both writers having such an accomplished pedigree in crime fiction writing, the joining up of their individual talents is exceedingly effective, and consequently what they have produced is an extremely compelling, clever and fascinating thriller. Having recently read both Enger’s Inborn and Horst’s The Cabin, I was interested to see how each writer’s individual style was so evident in this collaboration, being highly reflective of both their talents in creating credible and engaging characters, setting themselves apart from the normally slightly meandering tendency of Scandinavian crime fiction, and injecting a real sense of pace and excitement into the narrative and development of the plot.

Haunted by a shooting incident in the line of duty, and having a somewhat rootless and static career, Blix exhibits traits that we love in our police protagonists. He seems to exist under somewhat of a black cloud, with an estranged wife and a daughter he is currently viewing through the media as she takes part in the popular Worthy Winner show, the Norwegian equivalent of Big Brother. Slightly morose, but intuitive and imbued with a sense of morality and determinedness, Blix is an instantly empathetic and likeable character. As the investigation continues and time becomes of the essence for some kind of breakthrough, his path crosses once again with journalist Emma Ramm with whom, unbeknownst to her, he shares a personal history. As he begins to feed her information pertinent to the investigation, thus begins a flowering of an effective and, at times, perilous professional connection, which becomes absolutely crucial in the pursuit of a seemingly untraceable and ruthless killer.

I particularly like the character of Emma Ramm who possesses a confidence and doggedness as a journalist that puts some of her male peers to shame. Her quick intelligence and intuition are stretched to the max in this troubling case, but is exactly these qualities that Blix comes to rely on strongly as their interactions lead to significant turning points tracking the perpetrator and even more so as certain things develop in their hunt. No spoilers here. What I also like is the way that her natural confidence is underscored by a certain vulnerability below the surface, due to a condition which any young woman would find difficulty in coming to terms with. This adds a real emotional depth to her, and compounded by her growing realisation of the important part that Blix had played in her life, leaves great possibilities in developing her, and by extension his, characters even further.

Having referenced earlier the tendency for rather drawn out plotlines in some Scandinavian crime fiction, I very much felt the pace and energy of this one as being more similar to some of the best of the American crime writers. With a perfectly weighted balance of hide and reveal, I found the plot development and truncated chapters made this a book which was difficult to put aside, as everything tempted you to keep on reading. With the increasing body count, some withering observations on the cult of celebrity, some devilish twists, and a couple of satisfyingly surprising red herrings along the way, I was caught on the back foot more than once. What a great ending too. As a crime reader I could ask for nothing more…

Definitely one to add to your wish-lists and guaranteed to keep you reading long after the big light needs to be turned off! Highly recommended.

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(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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Blog Tour- Thomas Enger- Killed

Determined to find his son’s killer, Henning doggedly follows an increasingly dangerous trail, where dark hands from the past emerge to threaten everything. His ex-wife Nora is pregnant with another man’s child, his sister Trine is implicated in the fire that killed his son and, with everyone he thought he could trust seemingly hiding something, Henning has nothing to lose … except his own life…

So we’ve been  Burned, Pierced Scarred and Cursed so now prepare to be Killed by the last instalment in Thomas Enger’s superlative Henning Juul series. A reading experience of mixed pleasures it has to be said, with the excitement of a new book by Enger, but equally a tinge of sadness that this appears to be where we and Henning Juul go our separate ways…

Not afraid to repeat myself, as I have reviewed every book to date, I would once again draw your attention to Enger’s consistently polished storytelling, and ability to really bring his character’s traits- both weak and strong, good or bad- straight into the reader’s consciousness. Having concealed and revealed various people’s involvement in the tragic fire that resulted in the death of Juul’s son, this book again throws some curveballs Juul’s way, and Enger seems to delight in raising our suspicions, and then deflating our theories as Juul doggedly continues to pursue the truth. I think this book also fulfils a fair quota of the Tertullian seven deadly sins, as there is more than enough greed, murder, fraud and false witness to go round. Balanced with this, there is also a subtly nuanced depiction of the softer and vulnerable side of some of the characters, that toys with our perception of them, and at times invokes in us an equally subtle shift in our sympathy for them. I think this is why I have enjoyed Enger’s series so much, as in far as it is steeped in the recognisable tropes of much Scandinavian crime fiction, there is another arc to his writing that is sensitive and emotive, and really allows the reader to connect beyond the superficial narrative of an ordinary thriller. I also enjoyed the switching between two locations, the contrasts that Enger draws between the European and South American temperaments, and their differing attitudes to life, wealth, and justice.

This is one of the few series that I think works better by starting from the first and reading sequentially. As much as you can join in with the trials and travails of Juul in Killed , there is a gripping and layered back story waiting to be discovered, and with the accrued knowledge of events from the previous instalments, it definitely heightens the enjoyment of this final book. Having followed Juul’s story for some time, I felt it was time that this poor man achieved some sense of closure, and it has to be said that this book brings many chickens home to roost, with the obligatory dishing out of physical violence that Juul seems to attract. In the light of what I have just said about reading the series in its entirety, I have rather boxed myself into a corner, as to how much more I can tell you, and my lips are firmly sealed. Just keep that chilling prologue in the back of your mind as the story weaves to its conclusion…

As the curtain is drawn down on the ballad of Henning Juul, I am curious to see what Enger will produce next, and what the liberty of finishing this series will spark in his imagination. This has been an exemplary series, and well worth reading all five books. So after being Burned, Pierced Scarred  Cursed and Killed, I am now sated too.

Recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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#BlogTour- Thomas Enger- Cursed

515ppmic7ol-_sx324_bo1204203200_What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history…

So we’ve been  Burned, Pierced  and  Scarred  so now prepare to be Cursed by the latest instalment in Thomas Enger’s superlative Henning Juul series. Focussing on our dogged, emotionally and physically damaged reporter, Juul, Enger has carved out an exceptional niche in the current Scandinavian crime fiction market. Juul is still endeavouring to find those responsible for the fire which led to the death of his young son, and the physical injuries to himself. This continues to lead him to some  dark places, and into the crosshairs of some very dangerous people indeed. Coupled with this are the concerns raised by his changing relationship with his ex-wife, and fellow journalist, Nora and her involvement in a missing persons case at great danger to herself, which sees both their investigations become inextricably linked.

Hennning Juul himself, is a compelling character, in whom Enger balances an equal amount of empathy and exasperation on the part of the reader. We can sit back and admire his dogged determination to avenge himself on his son’s killers, and his integrity and professionalism as a reporter. However, I am increasingly struck by the fact that Juul never gives himself an emotional break, and lives his life in a constant state of maudlin despair. He is understandably grieving for the loss of his child and seeking emotional closure for this, but is in a state of denial that Nora will return to his warm embrace, particularly as she is now involved with another man. Indeed, I fear that such is his closed off state that he will fail to feel a warm embrace from any quarter. Like Enger’s assured characterisation of Juul’s estranged sister Trine in previous books, Nora is a well formed and believable character. Torn between two lovers as it were, and not without personal flaws, she possesses  a steely glint in her eye when it comes to uncovering the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of her former friend. She has an equanimity of character that allows her to drift between different social worlds, nagging away at the truth, although there is one exceptionally foolhardy action she takes that had me sighing in despair, the only kink in an otherwise perfect narrative.

Having favourably reviewed Enger’s previous three books, I am always struck with the control of pace and plot that is a standout feature of his writing. There is a real feel of storytelling in its purest form, and his books are always plainly delineated into a balanced beginning, middle and end, so consequently the reader is quickly drawn into the storyline, and carried along at a smooth and satisfying pace to the final denouement. There is always an element of surprise and wrongfooting in Enger’s plots, and a feeling of darkness as to what leads people to act and think in such malignant ways, played out against Enger’s pitch perfect use of socio-historical detail. I will issue my normal proviso that even if you are joining this series at this later point, Enger roundly and concisely brings the reader up to speed with previous events in Juul’s tortured personal history. Being a bit  fly by night, and sometimes a sporadic follower of series, I have been totally consistent with Enger’s series to date, and by working a little bit of teasing magic at the very close of this one, I’m pretty darn sure that the next one will be a bit of a must read too. All in all another fine example of engaging Scandinavian crime fiction that ticks all the boxes for this reader. Recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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Thomas Enger- Scarred

An elderly woman is found dead in a nursing home.Bjarne Brogeland, who heads up the investigation, soon realises that they are on the trail of a meticulous killer who has developed a keen taste for revenge. A killer who has only just begun. Trine Juul-Osmundsen, Norway’s Secretary of State and Henning Juul’s sister, is accused of sexually harassing a young male politician. As the allegations cause a media frenzy, Trine receives an anonymous threat telling her to resign. If she doesn’t, the truth about what she really did that night will be revealed. Scarred reporter Henning Juul, finds himself torn between the two high profile cases. He wants to help his estranged sister, but as he digs into their past, he discovers memories that haunt them both. Memories of a broken home. Memories of a dead father. As the two cases collide, both their worlds threaten to fall apart…

Okay so we’ve been Burned and Pierced so now prepare to be Scarred by the latest instalment in Thomas Enger’s superlative Henning Juul series. Focussing on our dogged, emotionally and physically damaged reporter, Juul, Enger has carved out an exceptional niche in the current Scandinavian crime fiction market. In this book in particular, there is more than a nod to the Borgen phenomena, as Juul’s estranged sister Trine, Norway’s Secretary of State becomes the focus of some unwelcome press attention…

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that this book in particular changed the direction of the series somewhat with the aforementioned development of Juul’s sister Trine in the overall plot. She is a complicated and layered character, as is Juul, and the tentative re-establishment of contact between the two in the wake of their previous estrangement, is handled with a deft touch and delicacy by Enger. Trine’s life is spiralling out of control with a malicious sex scandal story, in much the same way as Juul’s did in the wake of the events and his personal loss of the previous books, and Enger is pitch perfect in his depiction of the baying wolves of the press and her fellow politicians as her political career unravels. What unfolds is not only a brutally honest tale of political intrigue, but how the bonds of family can sometimes be an enormous burden and source of sadness to those involved, as events of the past sometimes refuse to rest in peace as Henning and Trine discover.

In a parallel story, regular police protagonist Inspector Bjarne Brogeland, is investigating a particularly brutal murder at an old people’s home of a curmudgeonly ex-schoolteacher. Having recently had an operation on my eye, I extend a note of thanks to Enger for highlighting the use of knitting pins and orbital crevices! Anyway, I digress, so, the collective intelligence of Brogeland, and by extension his professional relationship with Henning Juul forms the crux of this investigation, and there is normal bandiage and grudging professional respect between them once more in evidence. I enjoyed the way this plotline played out and the use of misdirection and red herrings that Enger employs. Set against the political storyline, there was a good balance throughout, and  both plots were of equal interest and emotional intensity to hold my attention throughout.

I think it is a testament to the strength of Enger’s writing that all three of his books to date, have been incredibly enjoyable. He seems to combine the very best aspects of the current Scandinavian crime table in terms of characterisation and plot as well as his razor sharp eye on the social and political trends at work in Norway, thus providing an added layer of interest to his crime fiction. A great read, and I would urge you to try the whole series.

Thomas Enger is the author of two previous Henning Juul novels, most recently Pierced, which was described in Shotsmag as ‘excellent, another superbly compelling read by Thomas Enger’. As well as writing, he also composes music. He lives in Oslo and is currently at work on the fourth novel of the series. http://www.thomasenger.net/ Follow on Twitter @EngerThomas

(With thanks to Faber&Faber for the ARC)

Thomas Enger- Burned & Pierced

 

 A BRUTALISED VICTIM IN THE WILDS A solitary tent is found to contain the body of a half-buried woman. She’s been stoned to death. There are lash marks across her back. One of her hands has been cut off. A LONE VOICE Two years earlier internet reporter Henning Juul lost his son, Jonas, in a domestic fire. As he returns to work, physically and emotionally scarred, Henning struggles to escape this past and to be taken seriously again as a reporter – by his colleagues, his ex-wife and the police. A MYSTERY IGNITED Told to cover the story of the woman in the tent, he finds an increasingly dangerous trail and, despite an early arrest, he is convinced that the story is more complex than the police think…

A convicted killer: Despite always maintaining his innocence, Tori Pulli, once a powerful player on Oslo’s underground crime scene, has been found guilty of murder. A Loose End: Scarred reporter, Henning Juul, is contacted by Pulli, who claims that if Henning can help clear his name he can give him details of who was responsible for the fire which killed his six-year-old son, Jonas. A Double Threat: Desperate to continue his own search for justice, Henning realises that the information Pulli promises is life threatening, to both of them and to others. As events take a deadly turn, Henning finds himself on the trail of two killers for whom the stakes have never been higher…
 
 

Have just read ‘Burned’ and ‘Pierced’ back to back, with both novels featuring the character of journalist Henning Juul, an extremely empathetic character scarred physically and emotionally by the loss of his child in a suspicious house fire that Juul blames himself for. I was extremely impressed by the tight plotting, characterisation and socio-political detail in both books as well as the powerful depiction of Juul’s entanglements in the seedy underbelly of Norwegian society as he seeks answers for the deeper questions in the events of his life and as he becomes embroiled in criminal investigations. Enger is a powerful new voice in the ever expanding Scandinavian crime stable and a writer I, for one, will follow with great interest…