PIERCED by Thomas Enger
(Henning Juul #2)
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: a gripping story of loyalty, loss, and revenge
With so many great crime books and authors always waiting to be discovered, it takes a lot for me to commit to reading a new series, but I’m so glad I made time to keep reading this one. After reading Book 1 in the series (BURNED) back in November, I’ve had such a hard time letting go of its storyline—I’ve been left wondering what on earth will happen to its endearing, melancholic protagonist. I finally decided I just had to find out. Well, I’m happy to report that PIERCED didn’t just fulfill my expectations—it wholly exceeded them.
“If you find out who set me up, I’ll tell you what happened the day your son died.”
Journalist Henning Juul receives this message from a jailed extortionist - a man claiming to know the truth behind the fire that killed Henning’s young son. Willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth behind this tragedy, Henning agrees to these terms, and launches an investigation into the murder for which this man was jailed. But Henning soon finds himself embroiled in an internal power struggle within one of Oslo’s gangs, risking his own life to prove a jailed man’s innocence. When one of the key players in Henning’s investigation turns up dead, Henning soon realizes he has to find not one but several killers to even have a hope of learning about his son’s death.
PIERCED is a gripping, addictive story of loyalty, loss, and revenge.
What struck me right off the bat is how Enger’s writing matured from BURNED to PIERCED. Keep in mind, I still loved BURNED - but PIERCED has a new fluidity and assuredness that drives the story forward. I was most struck by the way Enger manages the details of this story: PIERCED has a layered and intricate plot, yet Enger never gets bogged down. He strikes a delicate balance between complexity of plot and readable pacing, delivering a read that’s both intricate and totally entertaining.
I loved watching this story develop. The reader is introduced to a whole lot of characters, and I have to admit, I had absolutely no idea how their lives would end up intersecting. Watching this story unfold was just plain addictive. Enger has done an excellent job creating unexpected ties between characters that are still totally believable—I had so many “how did I miss that?” moments while reading this book, but I never felt like the characters’ connections were too convenient. It’s clear that Enger was very intentional in his plotting, masterfully setting up the details of this mystery.
PIERCED also has short chapters, which I absolutely loved—it contributes to the energy of the book, giving the reader just enough time spent in one storyline before switching to another. Each chapter ends leaving the reader wanting to know more, and it really worked on me—I read this book over the course of 2 days.
As in BURNED, the greatest strength of this book really is its characters. Enger just has a knack for writing about people. Main character Henning Juul is just as compelling in PIERCED as he was in BURNED, yet I also appreciated that PIERCED didn’t spend too much time focusing just on Henning—that would have become repetitive. There’s just enough detail about Henning’s state of mind in PIERCED to show the reader that he continues to suffer from the loss of his son, but not so much that it becomes overkill or redundant. PIERCED also includes a cast of supporting characters with memorable and vivid personalities. While reading these books, I develop such clear images in my mind of each character—and that’s definitely thanks to the author’s character-driven writing style. You’ll love some of these characters and you’ll hate some of them, too; either way, you’ll definitely remember them.
It’s safe to say I’ve been won over by the Henning Juul series. This series just has such a big heart at its core: from Henning’s personal tragedy to the emotional stories of its minor characters, this series really is all about people. That’s exactly what I look for in a crime book—a story that brings me into the hearts and minds of its characters, and I've found that in spades with this series. PIERCED is a masterfully-plotted novel that combines the grit of Nordic Noir with an entertaining, fast-paced plot that I absolutely loved. I’ll be eagerly awaiting my next chance to read a Henning Juul book!
Read my review of BURNED (Henning Juul #1) here.
PIERCED by Thomas Enger
Series: The Henning Juul Series
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (October 2, 2012)
Amazon link here.