Thomas Enger is a fan of the disconcertingly blunt one-word title; Scarred, the latest in a Norwegian noir series featuring Oslo journalist Henning Juul, follows his earlier novels Burned and Pierced.
If you’ve read the first books, you’ll know that Juul has been left physically and emotionally scarred by a house fire that killed his young son, Jonas. If not, you’d be well advised to go back and start at the beginning (Burned), not just because the journalist’s desperate need to discover the mysterious cause of that fatal blaze is a recurring underlying theme in all the books, but also because they’re a damned good read.
Scarred centres on two high-profile cases. The one of concern to the police, especially Juul’s contact Inspector Bjarne Brogeland, is the murder of a former school teacher in her room at an old folks’ home. The particularly gruesome nature of the killing suggests the motive is personal and it soon becomes clear the culprit still has unfinished business.
The case seems like excellent fodder for online breaking news sites such as the one for which Juul works – until a bigger scandal pushes it off the homepage. An anonymous young male politician has publicly accused Norway’s Secretary of State, Trine Juul-Omundsen, of sexually harassing him. And Trine just happens to be Henning Juul’s sister.
Conflict of interest and their estranged relationship would seem to preclude the journalist from investigating the harassment case himself, but he can’t resist – even though he’s already busy digging into the background of the dead rest-home resident in a bid to find a motive for her murder.
Enger skilfully weaves together a complex web of clues and characters that has his protagonists looking deep into the past in their efforts to find out the truth of the present. Scarred is a well-paced, multi-layered tale that is gripping from beginning to end; it’s also depressingly accurate in its depiction of certain elements of the modern media.
The author shrewdly offers up more questions than answers, especially in relation to glimpses of disturbing memories from Trine and Henning’s early family life. He leaves his readers wanting more – and, indeed, there is more to come, with three further Henning Juul novels yet to be published and a possible movie on the horizon.
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