Touted on the back of the book as Enger‘s debut novel, Burned is a brilliant jig saw puzzle of a mystery/thriller. Debut novel it may well be, but if you take the time to look up Thomas Enger’s biography on Goodreads, you’ll find that he has been writing professionally for quite a while.
I could wax lyrical about this book for hours. But since I don’t have the time to do that, I will limit myself to what I can put in a blog-post.
The ‘hero’ of the book (it appears that this is the beginning of a series) is Henning Juul. Henning is a journalist who works for an internet news channel. Juul is veteran news reporter and he is going through a very traumatic time in his life.
Henning is a burns survivor . He lost his son in the fire that nearly killed him, his wife divorced him and he is plagued by bad dreams about the fire and his son. He is also, understandably, very OCD about smoke alarms.
Juul compulsively checks and changes the batteries in his many smoke alarms in his flat. He instantly checks for smoke alarms when he enters any room or building. He has been under therapy to help him ‘move on’ and how to deal with the stress attacks that he was prone to.
At the start of the book, we get to witness the dream that plagues Henning nightly. We also are privy to his return to work and his daily fight to get back to ‘normal.’
Burned is a tightly woven mystery/thriller novel. He has made his main protagonist a very interesting person, one we empathize with immediately. Henning Juul was a man with a strong drive before he became a burns victim and it is this obvious drive that allows him to overcome his ‘disability’ and get on with his life.
Although this is a “mystery/thriller, Juul is no Miss Marple. He was and still is an investigative journalist, a crime reporter and a man with a questioning mind who was shown the ropes by a veteran newsman.
A girl is found murdered, stoned to death and one hand cut off, her body is in a tent on a city park site. The police believe it is a Islamic Honour killing and arrest the dead girl’s boyfriend. Juul reports on the killing on his first day back at work. His inquisitive mind sees the murder scene and to him it doesn’t add up.
Henning decides to follow up his initial news story and help to catch the killer.
As a hero Henning Juul is as flawed we are. He is not a muscle bound action man. He is not a marksman or a pugilist of rapid reflexes and killer punches. He is not a martial arts expert. He is a ‘wounded’ man recovering from horrific injuries. Both physical and mental. Henning’s biggest assets are his need for independence and his sharp questioning mind.
This looks to be the start of a great mystery series. I am glad I found Thomas Enger’s book and I can’t wait for his next Henning Juul novel.