Author: Thomas Enger
Publisher: Orenda Books
Wow! I think I need a very stiff drink. I’ll be back in a mo’: *pops to pub, downs aforementioned stiff drink, returns with renewed vim and vigour*. Right! Where to even start? Thomas Enger’s latest work of art, Killed, is a magnificent book in so many ways, also packing a huge emotional punch; the final novel in the sublime Henning Juul series that began four books earlier with Burned (Side note: whilst I have read in a few reviews now that many people have come into the series with this book or its predecessor Cursed, I really believe that this series is best read in order. There are plot points and resolutions that are revealed for previous books that could spoil one’s enjoyment of the journey to Killed. Of course this is just a personal viewpoint, but it is also the correct one so, yeah, do what you want. See if I care. Don’t come running to me when you read them out of order and go all “awwww, but now I know that X dies after Y said that W told Z that…”, well you get the idea. And I will say I told you so! So there’s that, too. Anyway, back to the review….). In Killed we finally get the answers that both Henning, and we, have been looking for. But those answers come at a great cost to so many people, both close to Henning and to those around him, and in this respect Killed is merciless. I mean, seriously! Jeeeeesus, Thomas, my heart! I could barely bring myself to turn the page at times. The prologue alone had me at “NOPE!”
A little background: Henning’s story has been five books in the making. Henning Juul is complex, detailed and a most beautifully written character; developing wonderfully as the books progress. He’s a man deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically, after his flat was destroyed in a fire; a fire that left him with terrible burns, and claimed the life of his young son, Jonas, despite Henning’s attempts to save him and the promise he made to him as the fire raged around them: Don’t be scared, I’ll take care of you! Henning has been carrying the guilt of this with him for two years when we first meet him. Although Henning suffered amnesia after the fire, he’s convinced that the fire was started deliberately; a theory that his ex-wife, and Jonas’ mother, Nora, refuses to believe. But Henning believes that someone was out to silence him because of a story he was working on (he is a journalist for internet news site 123news), and over the course of the books we discover more and more about the events leading up to the fire, the story that Henning was working on, and the motives of the arsonists become clearer. Although Henning is our main protagonist throughout the series, Enger does not neglect the large cast of supporting characters that come and go along the way: Bjarne Brogeland; Torre Pulli; Iver Gundersen; Nora Klemetsen; Charlie Høisæther; Pia Nøkleby; Durim Redzepi – to name just a few; some of whom are regular, some irregular; some of them are even dead for the most part, but they all have a wonderful depth and realism, drawing you deep into the story.
As with every book in the series the titles are very prescient (Burned; Pierced; Scarred; Cursed), and Killed is especially so. The body count in this book is crazy as the net slowly closes in on Henning, and those around him, as he gets nearer to the truth. Finally, Henning reaches the end of his long, emotional, painful and frequently very deadly journey. Enger ties up all the loose ends very well indeed, leaving this reader both satisfied and very sad at the same time. Quite how he kept tabs on all of the events throughout the five books and didn’t forget anything is quite the achievement. If there was an award for “Best At Keeping Up With Their Own Plot And Not Going Crazy (Or Losing Their Own Plot)”, then Thomas Enger will definitely win it. (It would be very polished and twisted in design, I reckon. Just like his books). There are some heartbreaking moments in this book, moments of sheer heart stoppingness (is that a word? Fuck it, it is now), moments of FFS and Bloody Hell Henning, and moments of sheer relief; boy, this book runs the full gamut of emotions.
You can probably tell that I seriously enjoyed this book. The whole series has been a joy to read; a true labour of love for both Thomas Enger and for his readers, and I will truly miss Henning Juul and the world in which he inhabits, and all of the characters who surround him. This is a series that I am very much looking forward to reading all over again. I strongly believe, like a favourite TV series or film that becomes better with familiarity and repeated viewing, these books will, too, mature and get better and better with every read (I feel the same way about Ragnar Jónasson’s Ari Thór series, another superbly compelling series from an exceptional writer).
Thomas is a wonderful talent; a writer of great skill and perception, and I cannot wait to see what he has up his post Henning sleeve for us next.
Very highly recommended (for both Killed and the series as a whole). 50/5.