by Thomas Enger
A Brutalised Victim in the Wilds: A solitary tent is found to contain the body of a half-buried woman.
She's been stoned to death. There are lash marks across her back. One of her hands has been cut off. A Lone Voice: Two years earlier internet reporter Henning Juul lost his son, Jonas, in a domestic fire.
As he returns to work, physically and emotionally scarred, Henning struggles to escape this past and to be taken seriously again as a reporter - by his colleagues, his ex-wife and the police.
A Mystery Ignited: Told to cover the story of the woman in the tent, he finds an increasingly dangerous trail and, despite an early arrest, he is convinced that the story is more complex than the police think...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 496 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 24/11/2011
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780571272259
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Review by ebyrne41
Burned is the debut novel of Norwegian Thomas Enger, and the first in a series. The scenario is an interesting one and for a change does not involve a police officer or private detective as the main character. Oslo-based investigative journalist Henning Juul returns to work for an online newspaper two years after a fire took his young son's life, destroyed his apartment and left Henning himself physicaly and emotionally scarred. Upon his return he is immediately involved in the reporting of the murder of a young female film student, who met her death by being half-buried and stoned to death in a tent in an Oslo park. It has all the hallmarks of a radical Islamic sharia-type killing, and the young woman's Muslim boyfriend quickly becomes the main police suspect, a development that Juul seems quite sceptical about. He proceeds to dig into the dead student's life, that of her Muslim boyfriend and her college friends in an effort to find the truth.There are a number of different aspects to this book; Juul's personal life, the immigrant Muslim community in Oslo, the characters of certain police officers, and the crime itself. Juul has acquired some obsessive behaviours as a result of the fire that claimed his son's life: he constantly changes the batteries in the smoke detectors in his home and he is extra cautious as to where he sits in public places. His mother is a drunk and his ex-wife is now, awkwardly enough, the partner of a colleague he has to work closely with. Enger can be well applauded for giving the main character a background that makes him all the more interesting as a person. Regarding the Muslim angle, you never quite know one way or the other as to its purpose - is it integral to the crime, a sub-plot or a red herring? Is the Muslim angle merely there to portray a certain element of the Muslim community and how the community is perceived in Norway?This is a story with twists and turns and something of a surprise ending, which by and large works. Yet some aspects seemed a little convoluted and stretched the imagination a bit, case in point being the student film-making angle. The storyline around Juul's police contact and his sexual infatuation with a female colleague seems underdeveloped to the point where you wonder about its inclusion at all. Of course the fact that 'Burned' is the first in a series does leave open the possibility of any unanswered questions or underdeveloped storylines that you feel might exist at the end being addressed in the follow-up books.Overall, a promising enough first novel that I can well recommend, and I will certainly be reading the second in the series, 'Pierced', in due course.