SCARRED by Thomas Enger
Series: Henning Juul (Book #3)
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: addictive, emotional Nordic Noir
Thomas Enger’s Henning Juul series has quickly become a staple of my crime fiction library. These Nordic Noir books effortlessly blend a driving plot with vivid, three-dimensional characters, all built upon the foundation of atmospheric Scandinavian crime. Nordic Noir readers will know that the genre can tend to deliver layered and complex mysteries that are a bit slower-paced than other crime subgenres—but Enger’s series stands out for its ability to be both brooding and fast-paced all at once. The Henning Juul books are excellent recommendations for readers looking for an entry point into Scandinavian crime; this is a series that is both exemplary of the Nordic Noir genre, and that stands apart for its accessibility and bingeworthy pacing.
An elderly woman is found dead in a nursing home. Bjarne Brogeland, who heads up the investigation, soon realises that they are on the trail of a meticulous killer who has developed a keen taste for revenge. A killer who has only just begun...Trine Juul-Osmundsen, Norway's Secretary of State and Henning Juul's sister, is accused of sexually harassing a young male politician. As the allegations cause a media frenzy, Trine receives an anonymous threat telling her to resign. If she doesn't, the truth about what she really did that night will be revealed. Scarred reporter Henning Juul, finds himself torn between the two high profile cases. He wants to help his estranged sister, but as he digs into their past, he discovers memories that haunt them both. Memories of a broken home. Memories of a dead father. As the two cases collide, both their worlds threaten to fall apart. Scarred is the third novel in the acclaimed Henning Juul series, following Burned and Pierced, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Petrona Award.
Each time I dive into one of Enger’s books, the first thing I’m struck by is how genuinely connected I feel to his characters. Enger’s series has a lot to offer - engaging plotting, compelling mysteries to unravel - but I keep coming back to these books because of how much I love spending time in Henning Juul’s world. In a genre defined by broken, damaged protagonists, Henning is a breath of fresh air. He’s not without his own baggage: he still bears the physical and emotional scars from the death of his son in a terrible fire, and he has lost the love of his life in a divorce. But Henning is such a compelling and endearing character because he’s just plain good.
Don’t get me wrong, Henning has plenty of his own burdens to bear, but there’s something truly admirable about him: he’s motivated by selflessness, and driven by a genuine desire to do right. Now, I also love reading about those aforementioned damaged protagonists—but sometimes you just want to read about a character whom you can wholeheartedly root for. Henning is that kind of character.
SCARRED serves up two mysteries vying for Henning’s journalistic attention. The first: an elderly woman is found murdered in a nursing home; the second: Henning’s own sister, Trine (Norway’s Secretary of State) is accused of a terrible crime. Henning finds himself torn between these two crimes, eager to help his sister but wary due to their shared history—a history of which readers know very little. Both of these mysteries fully held my attention, but I was particularly hooked on the plotline involving Trine. As readers delve into Trine’s life, they discover hints of a trauma that Trine and Henning seem to have suffered in their childhood. Enger is very careful not to reveal too much too quickly, and I found myself all the more invested in Henning's mysterious past with each little hint Enger did drop. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I am now on the edge of my seat, waiting for the final Henning Juul book (KILLED) to be translated into English so I can learn this mystery’s solution.
It's worth noting that Enger does a fantastic job offering up a balance of standalone mysteries and over-arching, long-term investigations in his Henning Juul series. Each book delivers a fully-formed, self-contained mystery: a crime that the police (often with Henning's help!) will solve over the course of the book. At the same time, Henning is also involved in an ongoing search for truth about his son's death—a search which develops with each book in the series. This balance makes for a very satisfying reading experience: you get both the solution to each story's individual crime, and the continued suspense of Henning's long-term mission.
I do think that readers will benefit from reading the previous books in this series, BURNED and PIERCED, before diving into SCARRED. These three books are closely intertwined, as main character Henning Juul’s search for the truth about the fire that killed his son develops chronologically. That being said, these books are all fast-paced, engaging reads, and I can promise you, they’re well worth your time. The bottom line: pick up the Henning Juul books for engaging, atmospheric, character-driven Nordic Noir, and prepare to be totally swept up in Henning's world.
The Henning Juul Series
Book Details: SCARRED by Thomas Enger
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (February 6, 2014)