Burned by Thomas Enger
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: From publisher for review
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.
Two years after a fire took the life of his young son, Henning Juul is back on the job as an investigative journalist. To his chagrin, he’s thrust into the murder of a beautiful young college student. Immediately, her Muslin boyfriend is suspected and jailed, but Henning is not so sure of the young man’s guilt. Suspecting more may be in play, he begins questioning friends and fellow students of the victim, and soon discovers there’s much more to this story than meets the eye. When his own life is threatened, that stakes are raised even higher, and Henning is in a race against time to find the killer, before the killer finds him.
When I first started Burned, it took me a bit to get used to the pacing and spare prose, but it didn’t take long, and soon, I was immersed in the story. Henning Juul is wounded and (literally) scarred, and his instincts aren’t unlike a seasoned detective’s. He’s still haunted daily by his son’s death and finds himself immersed in nightmares on an almost nightly basis. Turns out, this case is just the thing he needs to pull himself up out of his depression, even if there is some danger to his life. The chapters are short, and the author keeps you guessing about whodunit all the way through. The only quibble I have is a minor one. During a few of the passages involving the two main investigating officers, the male officer’s sexual preoccupation with his female partner is fairly blunt and distracting, but I almost had to think this might have something to do with the translation (which can’t be an easy endeavor in any language.) Like I said, very minor, but it did pull me out of the narrative for a bit. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book. A likeable, if wounded, protagonist made this a good read, and if you like an intriguing mystery that doesn’t waste time on florid prose, you’ll enjoy Burned!