Fresh Blood

Name: Thomas Enger

Title of Book: Burned

'This is a fascinating addition to the “Scandinavian noir” sub-genre and I look forward to the series unfolding.'

Henning Juul is a journalist working for an online newspaper. Two years ago his son, Jonas, was burned to death and Juul was badly scarred, both physically and mentally. On his return to work he is assigned to report the murder of a young woman found half buried in a tent. She has been stoned to death and her hand cut off. Her injuries bear some resemblance to a Muslim revenge killing and as her boyfriend is Muslim he becomes the police’s immediate suspect. Juul considers this to be a very superficial judgement and starts to employ his considerable journalistic skills to talk to people and to draw out a more complicated and intricate tale of jealousy and revenge. Added to the mix is a heavy and violent gang with drugs links.

On a personal level, Henning Juul is emerging from a very dark place. He suffers from an intense fear of fire and is haunted by the memory of the last few minutes of his son. He carries his own guilt, but also the recriminations of his ex-wife and her guilt too. As the story progresses Henning’s work slowly begins to bring him out of his state of suspended animation and he addresses the problem of exactly how and why his son died.

This is another twist on the Scandinavian crime novel. This time the hero is not a policeman but an investigative journalist - albeit one with some impeccable contacts in the police. As the author was himself a journalist the background detail and information on how stories are followed up and released give an insight into journalistic technique and provides authenticity.

There are several themes to the book: the psychological effects of trauma, the impact of immigrants on a fairly conservative society, the jealousy and personal motivation within a small community.

I think the description of the slow awakening of Henning Juul is particularly well done. His reaction to his old colleagues, the difficult relationship with his former wife and her new partner are very convincing. As he recovers, a wry sense of humour appears.

There have been several stories that concern the attitude of Scandinavians to the influx of immigrants and this one looks at the response of some Norwegians to their new citizens. As in most countries, ignorance breeds distrust in some quarters whilst elsewhere there is acceptance. Again, the characters and their attitudes are well described.

The heart of the plot is based on personal jealousies within the University and the twists and turns kept me guessing. There is a build up of tension, then a false sense of security followed by another frightening episode.
The book is written in the present tense, which I found distracting to begin with, but the author uses it to get under the skin of Henning as he reacts to his colleagues and his environment.

This is a fascinating addition to the “Scandinavian noir” sub-genre and I look forward to the series unfolding.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I am always looking for a certain rhythm to my words, and then, of course, to write something intensely, absorbingly thrilling, a story where the reader's heart really goes out to my character. My protagonist, Henning Juul, is really in a tight spot when we meet him, and I hope for my readers to empathise and recognize this. As if it happened to them. That's about as conscious as it gets, I guess. And I think there is a space with my name on it right underneath the "Scandinavian crime" umbrella. The texture and material of what makes me Scandinavian will always be present in the novels I write.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
If the story is good, it doesn't matter if it's a series or a standalone. The story is everything.
3) Did you have a particular reason to write the book in the present tense, or was it just as you heard it in your head?
I experimented with different styles when I started writing Burned, and I quickly realised that my protagonist came so much more alive to me when I wrote in present tense; I don't know, maybe as life and fiction merged?
4) Do you think the increase in the number of immigrants coming to Norway is a significant problem in Norwegian society?
We all fear what we don't know. It will take time to adapt to a new multicultural identity, because it's not easy when everybody wants to protect their own way of life. However, I see it as an obligation, not a threat, to try to make life easier for those less fortunate.
5) Do you think all successful crime journalists have to have a co-operative source in the police?
A journalist is his sources. He or she can be acceptably good on his or her own, but in order to be a brilliant one, you almost totally rely on your sources.
6) Was Juul based on anyone in particular?
Henning Juul is in many ways the journalist I never was, but wanted to be. He is the daring, driven man who never lets go of a lead, regardless of danger and threats. Isn't this the modern ideal, the equivalent of becoming a fire man or a cowboy? I never worked as a crime reporter, my main focus was sports. It is not quite as heroic, I must admit. I have, however, given Juul a few traits of my own, just to feel the kinship. As him, I like to play the piano, like me, he enjoys watching football. In days of hangover or scant belief in my own writing, I like to think we share some of that melancholic, inner darkness as well.
7) This first book ends with Juul starting out on a mission. Do you have a fixed number of books in mind for the series or is the series open ended?
There was always a plan. Henning Juul has lost his six year old son, and the whole series is about throwing light on what happened the night he perished in a fire. Henning blames himself, and finding the truth is a work of catharsis, a way of saving himself. In addition, every single book in this series of six has an independent crime plot. I love to create huge fictional universes, and this is by far the greatest challenge I have given myself. And I love every minute of it. I have just finished my second novel now, and may I be allowed: ‘Yee Haa!’
8) With ‘Scandanavian crime’ dominating the book charts the world over do you have your own theory on why people have gone crazy for the Scandanavian noir crime novel?
There is definitely a certain mystique surrounding Scandinavia, something dark and cold and melancholic that have given the word "noir" a whole different meaning. The bleak view of human nature that you often find exposed in crime fiction, seem to go very well with Scandinavian surplus of untouched nature and otherwise general lack of joie-de-vivre.
9) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Without a doubt; ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. It chills my bones even thinking about it.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Now why didn't I think of the twist at the end...
11) What is your ultimate favourite read crime of all time?
If I have to pick one in particular, it probably would be The Woods by Harlan Coben. A fabulous read.