Review: Burned by Thomas Enger


BurnedBurned by Thomas Enger (Faber and Faber, 2011)

Blurb: Henning Juul is a veteran investigative crime reporter in Oslo, Norway. A horrific fire killed his six-year-old son, cut scars across his face, and ended his marriage, and on his first day back at the job after the terrible tragedy a body is discovered in one of the city’s public parks. A beautiful female college student has been stoned to death and buried up to her neck, her body left bloody and exposed. The brutality of the crime shakes the whole country, but despite his own recent trauma – and the fact that his ex-wife’s new boyfriend is also on the case – Henning is given the assignment. When the victim’s boyfriend, a Pakistani native, is arrested, Henning feels certain the man is innocent. This was not simply a Middle Eastern-style honor killing in the face of adultery – it was a far more complicated gesture, and one that will drag Henning into a darkness he’s never dreamed of.


I picked up this book because it bore the inevitable sticker proclaiming Enger to be “the next Steig Larssen.” Now, I enjoyed the Larssen’s Millennium trilogy, but to be honest, while I love Lisbeth Salander, I don’t think those books represent the best of Nordic crime fiction. Burned, on the other hand, does.

Henning Juul is a truly scarred man, both inside and out. He is tormented by nightmares about the fire that killed his son and he holds to the belief that the fire was intentional—to believe otherwise would burden him with a guilt that would be unbearable. Two years after the fire, he has finally gone back to work as a reporter for an Internet news site, only to find that the world has moved on without him: one of his colleagues is involved with Henning’s ex-wife Nora; his new boss is a woman Henning had once hired as a temporary assistant; many of his contacts and sources are no longer taking his calls.

His first assignment is the murder of a young university student, ostensibly at the hands of her Pakistani boyfriend. However, as Henning quickly discovers, with this case, nothing is as it appears on the surface. Slowly but surely Henning is able to end his self-imposed exile, and through his contact with an old (and very knowledgeable) online source, his colleagues, and his ex-wife, we are able to see glimpses of the capable and bright reporter that Henning was before the fire. This is not merely a flawed character; this is a complex, emotionally damaged man who has a lot of potential as this series progresses. Enger has written a compelling, well-plotted crime story that is full of surprises. This series is going on auto-buy for me.


My rating: 4 stars


One response »

  1. Pingback: Review: Pierced by Thomas Enger | Red Panda Reads

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