Burned by Thomas Enger – A Norwegian Phoenix

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.

It shows.

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.

Gorging Myself on Books

books
books (Photo credit: brody4)

I am reading four books at once. Well, not at once, more like at the same time. I’m like a hummingbird darting from one nectar filled flower to another.

I open a  book, a quickly read a chapter or two, then set that book down and open another. I will do this until I have tasted each book. I will then pause and reflect on what I have just read.

This process will continue until I get to a chapter that hooks me. This is the defining moment. I have found that part of the story that so enthrals me that I can no longer continue my hummingbird reading. I will then have to finish that book. Preferably in one sitting, regardless of the books length, regardless of the topic, regardless of what else I might have to do.

I have always read this way. Partly because I am a very fast reader. Back when I was younger and had better eyesight and my concentration was total, I could read two thousand words a minute with seventy percent comprehension and eighty percent retention. I know this because my then girl friend was taking a speed-reading course.

My girlfriend, who incidentally later became my first wife, was an incredibly slow reader. It drove her to distraction. So when she started university, the first thing she did was take the speed-reading course. Part of the course was to take a test. You read an amount of prose and then you were tested on what you had read.

My Girlfriend wanted me to take the test as I could read, according to her, incredibly fast. That was when I found out exactly how fast I could read.

I don’t think that I can reach the dizzying heights of two thousand words per minute these days, but I am still damn fast. I have, though, improved my retention rate. I am not sure what that means. Of course the important thing about all this is the fact that I still love reading.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The four books I am dipping into at the moment are by all contemporary authors. Two are Scandinavian, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo seems to have opened up a whole new market. The other two are American writers. The books are:

Burned by Thomas Enger, She’s Never Coming Back by Hans Koppel, Gone by Michael Grant and Nightmare by Stephen Leather.

So far it has been a tie between Leather’s Nightmare, another in his Jack Nightingale series and Grant’s Gone, the first in his series about a world with everyone above the age of fifteen ‘gone.’

I still haven’t hit that defining chapter yet. But when I do, you’ll be the first to know.