At the debut authors panel at CrimeFest in Bristol last week-end, Thomas Enger gave an engaging introduction to his debut novel Burned. Although I’m a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction, this book had passed me by and I started to read it on the train from Bristol. It provided a very enjoyable and fast paced read and I’m already looking forward to the follow-up Pierced which is out in July.
The book features Henning Juul, a journalist employed by an online newsite who has been on a leave of absence from work for two years. Over the course of the book we gradually learn of the tragedy that has affected Juul and his family. On his first day back at work, he is sent to investigate the murder of a girl who has been found half buried in a tent. Although family and friends struggle to find a motive, the nature of the killing suggests a link with radical Islam. However in the course of his reporting of events, Juul discovers a script that the film student had been working at the time of her death which may hold clues to her murder.
Juul has an interesting relationship with the police. He appreciates the need to work closely with them to acquire information for his news site but he has doubts about the competency of their investigations, and is particularly suspicious of Inspector Brogeland whom he remembers from school. One of the most interesting aspects of the plot is the virtual relationship Juul has with an informer inside the police who he can only reach through an encrypted website.
As this is the first in a planned series of six books there are number of plot strands that aren’t resolved at the conclusion of the book. The cataclysmic event that that opens the narrative and is revisited throughout the novel is clearly going to be a theme of the second book. There is also an interesting sexual tension between two of the police officers, the sex obsessed Brogeland and Sergeant Ella Sandland, which I am sure will be played out in later books. I don’t require everything to be resolved in a single narrative and I think introducing dynamics to be resolved in later books was a good idea.
The actual murder case in Burned was well plotted although perhaps stretched the imagination a bit. Nevertheless I was fairly surprised by the identity of eventual culprit and liked the fact that once again, not everything was completely resolved. Enger is a former journalist and he portrayed well the tensions existing between modern internet based news, as exemplified by the fictional 1-2-3-News and more investigative style reporting which is Juul’s metier.
So a very interesting debut novel, written in the present tense which I liked, and I’m looking forward to future books in the series.
The author’s website is here.