Title: Cursed (Henning Juul book 4)
Author: Thomas Enger
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 15 February 2017
What secret would you kill to protect?
When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, 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. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.
All of the books in the Henning Juul series can be read as a standalone novel. This is a helpful fact when you realise that whilst Cursed was the first book in the Henning Juul series to be published by Orenda Books, it is originally the fourth book in the series.
In Norway, Hedda Hellberg has failed to return from a three-week trip to Italy. Her husband, Hugo Refsdal, asks Hedda’s university friend and journalist, Nora Klemetsen, for help in finding her. As Nora begins her investigations, she and Hugo both realise that they didn’t know Hedda as well as they thought. The discovery of links to the death of an old man, Daniel Schyman, leaves Nora wondering just what was Hedda’s involvement with this man that would cause her to lie to her friends and husband? And what is the mystery surrounding the wealthy Hellberg family?
Nora’s ex-lover, reporter Henning Juul, is on an extended period of leave from work following a personal tragedy. He soon finds himself caught up in Nora’s investigations for the missing woman. As the story takes the protagonists from Oslo to Vestfold, a web of secrets and lies in gradually uncovered which puts Juul and Nora in danger.
In a subplot, Juul is digging into the circumstances surrounding the death of his young son. His investigations lead him to the criminal underworld in Oslo and in a direction that will forever haunt him.
The book is told in short chapters with alternating narratives. This style of writing sucks the reader into thinking ‘just one more chapter’ and thereby ensuring a good pace to the story. The writing style is gripping and clever, descriptive at times and yet at other paragraphs demonstrating a stark quality that helps to emphasise the bleakness of the story.
The found the setting for the story interesting and I enjoyed the way the author provides the reader with some fascinating snippets of Norwegian history, however Enger’s strength really lies in his characters. He knows how to open up a character to the reader, to show the reader that characters thoughts and motivations. This brings the characters to life and ensures that the reader feels engaged with those individuals.
Cursed is dark, complex and powerful, with an undercurrent of sorrow lingering just below the surface. The book takes a look at morality, self-preservation and redemption. It highlights how secrets can have an enduring impact. A tragic and truly compelling story that will draw you deeper until you simply can’t put it down.
This was the first book I have read by Enger and it certainly won’t be my last!
I should also make mention of the translator, Kari Dickson. I cannot say how the narration compares to the original Norwegian version, however it seems well done to me. There are no clunky paragraphs or cultural idioms that get lost-in-translation.
About the Author
Thomas Enger was born in Oslo in 1973, but grew up in Jessheim. He has an education in journalism, and has also studied sports and history. He worked at the Norwegian online newspaper Nettavisen for nine years.
He has composed music and written books since the age of 18. He is also working on a musical.
Enger’s first book, Skinndød, was published in 2010. It is the first book in a series of at least six featuring crime journalist Henning Juul. The second installment, Fantomsmerte, was released in the fall of 2011; Blodtåke, the third book, is scheduled for a 2012 release.