Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour and to wish Thomas Enger a very happy paperback publication day for the release of Cursed, the fourth instalment in the Henning Juul series.
The Official Book Blurb
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.
I am going to be entirely honest here – I came to this book a little blind. This was the first book in this series that I had read, despite it being the fourth one, however as it was being released by Orenda, there was this implicit trust that this was going to be good. I was not left disappointed. I didn’t even manage to get half way through before I stopped to purchase the first three books in the series. Henning and his friends and colleagues were so intriguing, the promise and lure of the backstory so great that I knew I needed to read them all. That is not to say that you can’t read this book as a stand alone. The story is unique to this book and the back story explained enough that you absolutely could. I just want to know more and, assuming you don’t already, I think you will too.
This is a very cleverly written story. Opening with a scene set in Sweden where a man is murdered whist out hunting, I was unsure about how and where this was going to fit in. The man had ties to Norway, although it was not explained what these were, and his untimely death left a lot of questions unanswered. And this is where our real tale begins.
When Henning’s ex-wife Nora is approached by the husband of an old school friend, Hedda, she has no idea of how much of an impact this is going to have on her life. With her current relationship on rocky ground, she is glad to have something to immerse herself in, and the mystery of the woman who left for a retreat in Italy following her father’s death and never returned is an intriguing one to say the least. Nora hadn’t seen Hedda since university, but she remembered her family, especially her father, as being formidable, one of the richest families in Norway with an established real estate business and many deep rooted commuity ties. Despite being worried for Hedda, the family seem reticent to help Nora; the more she learns of Hedda, the less the story makes sense, and the more it seems that someone is determined to stop her.
Back in Oslo, Henning is making waves of his own, trying desperately hard to find out who was behind the fire at his apartment which ruined his life. Taking a sabbatical from work, Henning is using the time to track down some very shady characters, people who may know more about the fire than they are letting on. His investigations take him on some surprising trails, and someone seems determined to stop him, even if it means taking his life. But this is the only thing keeping Henning going, the quest for the truth. With evidence leading his search ever closer to Nora’s investigation, there is nothing that can prepare Henning for what he is about to uncover at the books jaw-dropping conclusion.
I loved this book. Being taken from two investigative journalist’s points of view gave it a different slant on a normal mystery or thriller. These are people who, rightly or wrongly, can go places, ask questions and follow trails that the police are judicially not allowed to do. Neither Nora or Henning is afraid to put themselves in jeopardy, in fact their willingness to take risks, while it may seem foolhardy, actually makes them all the more endearing. There is still clear chemistry between the two and yet circumstance has forced an irreparable crack in their relationship. They have endured great loss, the kind which often kills a marriage, and while Nora is trying to move on, Henning is lost in the past, unable to press on until he has answers. Answers he is more than willing to die to obtain.
The pacing in this book is varied, ebbing and flowing as the narrative directs it. Even the opening chapter seems calm, considered, right up until the moment that the old man is shot. And that simple, cold act of violence leaves a myriad of questions which I was just desperate to get an answer to, sometimes I’ll admit, more than I was desperate to know why Hedda disappeared. Outside of our protagonists Henning and Nora, and a handful of their closest friends, there is no-one in this book who isn’t duplicitous, who doesn’t have something to hide. There is a feeling of not being able to trust anyone, especially not the missing Hedda. And while the investigation itself may seem to take a slower pace, there are moments of real high-stakes tension where both Nora and Henning are targeted in separate attacks. But are they just being warned off or is it a real attempt upon their life? And those final heart-pumping chapters where Nora begins to uncover the truth about Hedda and her family really had me holding my breath, desperate to learn everyone’s fates as even the elements seemed to conspire against them.
The imagery created in this book, the descriptions of Oslo and the Norwegian landscape, the creation of individual character, are all brilliant. I have limited knowledge of this wonderful country outside of what I have seen on TV and yet I could picture it all perfectly, and it has made me interested to learn more, even to visit the country for myself. I got a real feeling for the city, for the climatic and cultural changes in the country as you step foot outside of Oslo’s confines. Of the difference in class and culture and the impact this had upon the story itself. The book drew me in and almost consumed me, to the point I didn’t want to walk away from it. I became entranced by both the setting and the characters contained within.
Nora and Henning both captured my imagination and my heart as I read about them. In spite of her internal pain, Nora is a strong independent woman, intelligent and astute. Henning is a man driven by anger, motivated by his need for answers. Both are extremely likeable but for very different reasons. Enger has written about them and their love so beautifully, the tragedy of their story so evocatively, that I simply must know more. And more importantly, I cannot wait to find out what happens to the irrepressible Henning next. Although the book suggests a certain sense of finality, maybe even closure, for Henning and Nora’s relationship, it is clear that Henning’s personal quest is far from over. He is a man full of pain and I wouldn’t want to be the person who caused it when he finally catches them.
A wonderfully twisted and family-secret laden 5 stars.
My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC of the Cursed by Thomas Enger. It is available in e-book version and is also released in the UK in paperback today and can be purchased at the following links:
About the Author
Thomas Enger (b. 1973) 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 5 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 26 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). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.
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