Book Title: Cursed
Author: Thomas Enger
Review By: Chelsea
Series: Henning Juul #4
Genres: Crime Fiction, Scandinavian Literature, Police Procedural, Mystery
Date Read: 03/03/17
Pub Date: 05/01/17
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.
Ever since I started my blog last May, I’ve found myself opening up to new experiences I thought I’d never try. One of those would be accepting books to review in the middle of an ongoing series; I am a Type-A, need to have all the facts and be 100% in control of my reading monster or I get antsy. What if I missed out on something important? What if I’m not getting all the little subtle, inside jokes? What if I’m not familiar with enough of the characterization and a bomb is dropped and MY LIFE IS RUINED?!?!?!?! *Gasp* Can you believe people say I’m dramatic? I never broke this cardinal rule until Karen Sullivan began tempting me with shiny, pretty, deliciously perfect books. Orenda Books is one of those diamond in the rough publishers that started small and is growing exponentially due to the high quality reads they offer. If you are ever going to trust someone enough to jump into a series midway, let it be Karen. Here’s why…
Once again, I’ve picked up an Orenda Book to review because they are like crack. I’m loving the selection of nordic noir that they have to offer; each book keeps to the same characteristics I love in the genre but has their own personal quirks that make them individually so delectable. Cursed was my first read by Thomas Enger and certainly won’t be my last. Guess who is the proud “owner” of his first 2 books in the series via her library? 🙂 While I feel confident anyone can pick this book up to read as a standalone, the engaging writing style and suspenseful plot immediately caused me to crave going back and seeing what all I’d missed involving Henning Juul and Nora. I’m sure if you’ve read any other reviews surrounding this book you’ll realize there is a huge WOW moment in the last few sentences. The hype for once is worthy; the ending shocked me to the point I actually gasped out loud. Well done!
I think the hardest aspect to digest and most worthy plot point is not even the mystery surrounding Hedda Hellberg’s disappearance, but the conflict and suffering amongst Henning and Nora in the recent loss of their son. I believe most parents would agree that to lose a child is the greatest horror imaginable, and the reader can taste the despair and anguish this complex pair are experiencing. I found the multiple threads of storyline all highly entertaining, but this intimate and almost sacred suffering is what brought me to my knees while reading this book. Writing about such a heartbreaking subject can’t have been easy, but the author does it well and installs a firm sense of humanity and mortality to turn this simply from reading a book into having an experience. The plot was steady; I would say it focused more on characterization than high octane action. This gave the novel a meaty, hearty sense of fulfillment that more detail oriented readers will appreciate.
Overall I was highly impressed with my first Enger experience. I’ve heard from multiple fans that each book in the series is fantastic and easily devoured in their own way. From the stunning cover, to the atmospheric descriptions, all the way to that final page, I felt engaged and drawn into the story. The translation flowed very well and I did not feel anything was lost from one end to the other. I’ve lately been savoring these dark, emotional nordic noirs and think it’s due to the fact they have all come from the same fabulous publisher! If you are thinking of giving this series a try but aren’t sure where to begin, feel free to pick up Cursed (book #4) like I did, or start at the beginning of the series with Burned (book #1); you can’t go wrong with either route. Just know if you pick this one up, you’ll be insanely covetous for book #5 like the rest of us! Maybe we can start a support group for readers with Henning Juul Hangover? That’s a thing right?
*As always, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for hooking me up with the absolute highest quality fiction. It was an absolute pleasure to take place in the blog tour!