Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Burned by Thomas Enger - Nordic noir

"Burned" by Thomas Enger is a debut crime fiction novel that has become a best seller in its native Norway and other Scandinavian countries. It is in the popular genre of nordic noir: books that examine the dark reality of the downside of living the Scandinavian dream.
The protagonist Henning Juul is an investigative journalist who has not worked since a traumatic incident in his life two years previously which has left him with scars both real and mental. Returning to work Henning's first investigation is the murder of a young female student in what looks like a ritual sharia killing. Her Muslim boyfriend is arrested but Henning thinks he is innocent.
Set in Oslo, Henning's investigation, using traditional journalistic methods, stays one step ahead of the police. The ethics of journalism emerge in the narrative,  particularly the tension between ethics and sensationalism under the constant pressure to attract more and more readers. The book touches on issues of immigration and prejudice, particularly Islamophobia, without preaching at the reader. 
Henning is an intelligent and intuitive damaged hero who works best alone, though he becomes more appreciative of human contact as the story develops. Hennings obsession with smoke alarms is understandable once the nature of the trauma and loss he has lived though have been explained. A violent criminal drug smuggling and people trafficking gang are on the periphery of the plot and they pose a constant threat as they know Henning is the only eyewitness to a murder. 
The novel is well written and translated and the plot is solid with some nice twists. This is one of the best crime books I have read for a while. There are many hints and references to past cases which I am sure will be developed in future novels about Henning Juul.

Image courtesy of twobee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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