Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Cursed by Thomas Enger, the latest release in the Henning Juul series. This book took me on a thrilling ride and is the perfect example of why I have come to love Nordic Noir, I’m delighted to share my review with you all today.
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. Taut, chilling and unputdownable, Cursed is the fourth in the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned by always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.
Have you ever read a blurb for a book and thought, I have to read that, only to find it’s number 4 in a series? That’s what happened to me with Cursed, I was apprehensive when it came to reading this one as I prefer to read series in order, so I can follow the story from the beginning. As is the case most times, it was a needless worry, this book is so rich in detail, I had no problem reading it as a standalone. In fact, jumping straight in at book 4 means I get go back and visit Henning Juul in books 1-3, which is exactly what I plan to do as I await the release of book 5.
Cursed opens exactly how I like my crime fiction reads to start – with a murder! In Sweden, a man is killed but how does his murder in Sweden effect Henning and his ex-wife, Nora, in Norway? Henning, on leave from his job as a journalist, is plagued by a house-fire that was meant to kill him, but instead, resulted in a death of his young son, Jonas. By any means necessary, he will not rest until he finds the man responsible. Nora, also a journalist, is tasked with investigating the disappearance of Hedda Hellberg.
What I really liked about this book is that the leading protagonists were journalists, instead of detectives, which you usually find in this type of book. If anything, that enhanced the mystery as neither Henning or Nora were confined by the regulations of policing, this allowed them to work ‘outside the box’ and take us on one hell of a ride. Both characters were extremely likeable and extremely well developed, even though this was book 4, Enger still gave us everything; he didn’t hold back on the backstory/personal lives of these characters in the hope that the reader had read the previous books. This personal relationship between Nora and Henning shows how the same traumatic event can affect two people differently – Nora, moving on [as best she can] after the death of their son, and Henning, his life ‘on pause’ till he finds out who is responsible. The love and friendship these two share was evident in their interactions and a pleasure to read, it made me a little sad that they were no longer a couple, as they appear to be the perfect fit for each other. Henning has all the traits of my favourite characters, haunted by events of the past, flawed yet likeable – my favourite of favourite characters, you can do nothing but root for him from the moment you meet him!
As for the mystery, told in alternating perspectives, we following Nora and Henning as they each work to solve their own mystery. The suspense continuously building, these appear to be separate investigations, do they come together at some point and how do either link to the mysterious murder at the start of the book? This book doesn’t rely on a fast pace to capture your attention, the action doesn’t need to move at break-neck speed. Instead, this mystery captures your attention through its complexity and constant tension-building, and Enger’s fluid writing style. As you go deeper into the story, Henning and Nora, capture your heart.
Now, for the books ending, I can say nothing but quote Dickens – “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” – let’s break that down…. The best of times – Cursed has a fantastic ending, a cliff-hanger that makes it certain I’m reading the next book! The worst of times – The ending was so good, I’m currently in a state of pining, and the only cure for this book hangover is book 5!
When I think of Nordic Noir, I think of cold climates, moody atmospheres, plots that are in equal measures dark and beautiful, books with the ability to capture, not only my interest but my heart too. After reading this book, in the above sentence, I can easily replace the phrase ‘Nordic Noir’ with ‘Cursed’ as this book encapsulated all that this genre is to me! Without the translation of this book by Kari Dickson, I would not have been able to read it, so thank you!
*My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book*
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