KILLED by Thomas Enger
Orenda Books; 2/15/18 (UK Publication)
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: an emotional conclusion to a much-loved series
Have you ever picked up a book by a new-to-you author and just felt instantly in step with the author’s voice and style? That’s exactly how I felt when I first dove into Thomas Enger’s Henning Juul series. I started the series about a year and a half ago, after meeting the author at Iceland Noir, and was totally hooked. Enger’s writing is accessible and engaging, his stories’ atmospheres are gloomy and moody, and (perhaps best of all) his main character, Henning Juul, is endearing and sympathetic for the entirety of the series. These are crime novels with a heart—Enger infuses each story with humanity, delivering characters the reader will root for and cry over - sometimes quite literally. The fifth and final installment in the Henning Juul series, KILLED, will be best appreciated by readers who have followed the series from the beginning; if you’re intrigued by this series, you can read about Book 1, BURNED, here. For long-standing fans of Henning Juul, KILLED will prove a satisfying and heartbreaking finale to a much-loved series.
Crime reporter Henning Juul thought his life was over when his young son was murdered. But that was only the beginning…
Determined to find his son’s killer, Henning doggedly follows an increasingly dangerous trail, where dark hands from the past emerge to threaten everything. His ex-wife Nora is pregnant with another man’s child, his sister Trine is implicated in the fire that killed his son and, with everyone he thought he could trust seemingly hiding something, Henning has nothing to lose … except his own life.
Without a doubt, my favorite element of Enger’s Henning Juul series has always been - and will always be - his endearing, sympathetic protagonist. Reeling from the untimely death of his young son in a house fire, Henning applies his journalistic skills to uncovering the truth about the tragic night that forever altered his life. Readers meet Henning in BURNED (Book 1) when he is just starting out on this heartbreaking quest, and follow him through the many (many) ups and downs that his investigation takes. From potential corruption in the police force to the brutality of Oslo, Norway’s criminal underworld, Henning leaves no stone unturned in his search for justice—and I loved every moment spent following his highly personal investigation. Readers who enjoy police procedurals will find Henning’s mission a refreshing twist on the genre—readers will experience the same kind of detail-oriented piecing together of the facts as they would in a police procedural, but Henning’s background as a journalist, rather than a member of law enforcement, gives this book a unique twist. And beyond all the technicalities and details, there’s Henning himself: a kind-hearted man whose sole purpose in life is to find justice for his young son. It’s just about impossible not to cheer for Henning and wish the best for him… even if you know that’s unlikely to happen in a crime story.
In KILLED, Enger focuses his efforts on tying together loose threads from previous series installments, and answering the all-important question of the series: who set the fire that killed Henning’s son? As previously mentioned, this book really is best understood by those who have read the previous Henning Juul books. KILLED is so focused on tying the series together neatly that I actually wished I had re-read the previous series installment, CURSED, before diving into this one. The publisher has included a very helpful character guide at the beginning of KILLED that will help orient new readers to the story’s key players, but even I found myself wishing I had more of a refresher on the events of the previous book before embarking on KILLED. I can’t quite be sure whether it’s my own fault as a reader (perhaps I was distracted while reading the book?) or whether this book became just a bit too ambitious, but I did find myself a touch lost at certain points of the read. It’s completely to Enger’s credit that he took such care tying together each and every thread of this story, but I at times found myself struggling to keep up with the many names, relationships, and conspiracies packed into it. Perhaps leaving a few threads to rest as they were in the last book would have streamlined the read; perhaps the fact that it had been over a year since I read the last Henning Juul book was to blame for my confusion. No matter the reason, this does reinforce that this series really is best read in order; the good news is, with all the Henning Juul now translated into English, readers can binge the whole series.
Where KILLED really shines is (unsurprisingly) in the humanity and emotion poured into this story. While much of the book is devoted to tying together those loose plot threads, the pieces of this story that clicked for me the most were those dealing with Henning's personal life. Readers familiar with the series will know that Henning’s life has been far from easy, and in KILLED, Enger puts his main character through the ringer one last time. I won’t discuss too much of what Henning faces for fear of spoiling anything—but suffice it to say, this book’s last chapter had me heartbroken and glued to the pages in equal measure. I can’t imagine any reader of this series would assume that it would have a happy ending for Henning… but the poignancy of the book’s final few chapters really did feel like saying goodbye to a friend. Enger’s character development is without a doubt my favorite element of his writing, and knowing that KILLED will be the final Henning Juul novel coupled with the crushing events of the book itself left me genuinely emotional as I turned its final pages.
The Henning Juul series is a strong choice for readers who are newcomers to Nordic Noir. Laced with the melancholy and gloom of the genre but devoid of some of its more graphic scenes of violence, this series strikes a welcome balance that will be well-suited to those just dipping their toes in Scandinavian crime fiction. There’s something wonderfully accessible about these books - they’re the kind of reads you can pick up and just sink into. Between Enger’s engaging voice as an author and his main character’s kind heart, these are books that really came to feel like trusty old friends to me, and I am so sad to say goodbye. Cheers to the author on the conclusion of a much-loved series - I will look forward to seeing what he does next!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Series: Henning Juul (Book 5)
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (June 1, 2018)
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