Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Today we welcome the Killed blog tour.
Killed is almost impossible to describe without spoilers, but I will do my best. We begin with a prologue which isn’t really a prologue but which challenges and dares the reader to predict the end. This is followed by an opening chapter which takes place thirteen years previous to the prologue. Once we’ve hopped about in time in this way, we have a fairly straightforward run to the denouement; or as straightforward as you could expect in the fifth of a five volume series which includes the unmasking of secrets its characters have carried for decades.
This is a story that contains oodles of layers. It isn’t quite true to say that everyone has secrets, because there are characters whose business model is to know and exploit those secrets. It is perhaps more true to say that different people have different motivations. Thomas Enger is sympathetic towards his characters, or at least to some of them. We understand that even the muscles for hire might have been useful members of society if life had dealt them a different hand. Though I realise later that since Enger is less favourably inclined towards Numero Uno, whom we believe to be called Daddy Longlegs, we could draw up a shortlist of suspects simply by working out who doesn’t get a fair hearing.
I feel this is a darker book than Cursed. The tension is exhausting and the exhaustion causes tension. By the time Henning Juul is slipping out of A&E for a second time, he’s tired. No one can trust anyone else. Perhaps that’s not true. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that no one can decide to trust anyone else without becoming killed a few pages later. Enger is not afraid to rack up a huge body count, nor to string the reader along before confirming whether a seemingly doomed character is going to make it through.
But if you are going to play about with concepts such as the lovable rogue or the career criminal, then you return to the theme of power, and of truth. A fairly stunning revelation is that of a murder attempt which was bungled because one member of the gang thought another was on a particular occasion telling the truth. There’s betrayal and counter-betrayal as our crims seek economic advantage or fall in love with each other’s partners. I wouldn’t normally have a problem with the idea of cross and double cross and honour among thieves and all that kind of thing, but there is a type of abuse described right at the end of the book the inclusion of which I find quite unnecessary as a plot device. That is not what you want in a tale told for entertainment.
That aside, Enger does entertain us. He guides us through a high octane thriller, using exposition where necessary and slowing the pace down when he wants us to keep still. The picture he paints is described simply – with a great translation by Kari Dickson – but the starkness of the prose contrasts all the more happily with the complexity of the picture.
This is a fine ending to the Henning Juul story. I find myself wishing I had read instalments 1-3, and wanting to refer to my copy of Cursed. None the less, it’s quite possible to read it as a standalone thriller. I’m interested to know what Thomas Enger has planned next for us.
Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy. And check out the other stops on the blog tour.