Sunday, March 2, 2014

Burned (Henning Juul #1)Burned by Thomas Enger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thomas Enger’s “Burned” is an interesting procedural taking place in Oslo, Norway. A female student of a communication and arts college has been stoned to death, and a Muslim boyfriend of her arrested. The main character is a crime journalist in a web-based news outfit, Henning Juul, who is just coming back to work after having suffered an unimaginable tragedy. His investigation of the case and the police investigation are portrayed in the two complementary and intertwined threads in the novel.

Mr. Enger is a former journalist so it is no wonder that the world of the news station is shown vividly and realistically. Learning about the workings of a web-based station is particularly interesting. Unfortunately, the plot contains several cliché literary devices. For instance, we soon learn that Mr. Juul’s work on the case will involve interacting with his ex-wife and her current boyfriend. The main detective working on the case lusts after his female partner. Mr. Juul has to take care of his sick and alcoholic mother, etc. These tricks have been used hundreds of times in mystery fiction, and they substantially decrease the appeal of quite a clever plot.

I love one of the literary devices used a little later in the plot. Without spoiling the mystery, I can only say that it involves sort of “life mirrors fiction” trick. This is neat and refreshing. As is the main, deceptive premise of the plot, which again cannot be divulged without spoiling it. Alas, the ending is, for me (a purely personal peeve), botched by the dreaded “twists and turns”. Many readers like them; I prefer “linear” mysteries where everything steadily and inexorably leads to one and only unavoidable conclusion.

I like Mr. Enger’s writing and the translation. They are simple, economical, and devoid of hysterics of a “style”. Even with the clichés and with the twisty ending, “Burned” is a good read.

Three and a half stars.

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