BURNED

Written by Thomas Enger

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.


BURNED
Faber & Faber
RRP: £12.99
Released: 7th July 2011
Hdbk

In Thomas Enger’s first novel, we met Henning Juul, tortured Norwegian internet reporter, damaged father of a boy, Jonas, lost in a fire which burned down his flat and scarred Juul inside and out. He cannot forgive himself for not saving his son, has lost his wife to another journalist, his mother is a drunk and indifferent to him and he doesn’t speak to his sister, Trine, who is Norway’s Minister for Justice.

And he spends too much time checking his fire alarms and changing the batteries.

But this is just the surface of this man.

Returning to work, Henning is assigned to cover a story about a female student, Henriette Hagerup, buried and stoned to death in what appears to be an extreme case of Sharia law. At first it seems open-and-shut: her boyfriend was a muslim, she was a known flirt, and the police seem happy to go with the facts.

But Henning isn’t so sure. Stirred up by being paired with his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, Iver Gundersen, he begins to dig into the dead girl’s background, and that of her boyfriend, Marhoni.

This is a complex story, with an interesting – sometimes oddball - cast of characters. And none more so than 6tiermes7 (not a typo), an unidentified insider in the police department, whom Henning has communicated with by email before, and revives to see what he (or she?) knows – or is willing to share. There’s also Detective Inspector Brogeland, who spends too much of his time brooding over the extremely ‘fit’ Sgt Ella Sandland, but who, underneath, is a good cop, and a gang of drug runners called Bad Boys Burning (BBB) who put our reporter on a chillingly blunt warning for interfering in their business: stay out of it or we’ll kill your mother.

Not that Juul is without eccentricities, for a hot-shot reporter; he rides a Vespa, which must be a first (in my experience of crime-fighting characters, anyway), and even hands the solving of the case to his rival, because he can’t quite face all the media fuss.

And it’s all these characteristics which make this book so very enjoyable. Henning Juul is quietly dogmatic and stubborn, un-dramatic and beavering away as much by instinct as on clues, while everyone else blithely ignores or overlooks them.

The story is solid, the characters very well drawn, and I found myself reading this at all hours when I should have been doing other things.

And one other thing which endeared me to Thomas Enger’s writing: we hear so much about beginning a novel with a killer first line. Enger has reserved a real surprise in ‘Burned’ to the end. He’s exchanging emails with 6tiermes7 his insider, about the end of the case, when he asks him/her a question.

I won’t tell you what that question is, but it’s a real killer of a last line.

And hooked me to want to read the next book (as if he hadn’t already).

Highly recommended.

To read an interview with Thomas conducted by Adrian, click here

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