Fiction – February 2020

A month of solid good quality reading. Plenty to enjoy here.

The first in Garry Disher’s series featuring DI Hal Challis working at the Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne, Australia. Fortunately for us readers, while Challis is a well drawn and interesting character, the supporting cast is more robust and also worthy of attention. The backdrop is superbly drawn, with nuggets of observational beauty peppering the descriptions of life and death in this part of the world. The main plot here is about a serial killer targeting young women. While the plot is not as complex as some of the genre, it has enough twists to satisfy and is credible. In short, a good police procedural novel. Continue reading

Scarred – Thomas Enger


First there was Burned, then there was Pierced, and now Scarred: three novels set in Oslo featuring Henning Juul (a journalist with a tragic past), and his contemporary, Detective Inspector Bjarne Brogeland.

This time around, an elderly resident of a care home is brutally murdered, and the police are puzzled. Juul is trying to investigate the killing too, but at the same time his sister, Trine Juul-Osmundsen,- from whom he is estranged – is facing a media storm after an anonymous complaint against her of sexual harassment. She is the Justice Secretary (Minister?), and somewhat in the public eye. What is worse, is that to rebut the allegation she would need to reveal a dark secret (the scandal mentioned on the cover)  that could destroy her marriage.

The two separate plot lines are diverse in their path and their atmosphere. In one, you have the police investigation, with journalists sniffing around in the background. In the other, the journalists are front and center, making the running by publishing the allegations and stirring the pot of trouble, with the poor Justice Minister on her own, in hiding, and trying to work things out.

Slowly, deftly, and cleverly, the layers of the plot are unpeeled, and we see a mystery solved, and a secret disclosed.

This is a fine example of contemporary crime fiction. It not only entertains, but offers some observations on the world we live in, especially the power and potential abuse of the media. At the same time, it highlights one of the darker possibilities of human nature, and the damage that can be done when relationships break down.

Well written, with interesting characters, a well constructed story, good tension, and a surprisingly enduring plot line that continues through all the books in the series so far, I highly recommend this to you. If you haven’t ready any of the series, you will definitely get more out of them by reading them in order.

Pierced – Thomas Enger

The setting is Oslo, Norway. The story is a follow up to the superb Burned, featuring investigative journalist Henning Juul, a man who lost his young son in a fire at his home.

Tori Pulli, a one-time debt collector and enforcer made good, is convicted of murder. He claims he is innocent and asks Juul to investigate, dangling the promise of information about the tragic fire in exchange for his release.

Inevitably, Juul’s investigation touches one or two raw nerves, and the repercussions are violent and bloody. 

The story is well constructed and well paced. It’s exciting, involving, and sprinkled with surprises.

Juul is a very sympathetic character, and you cannot help be drawn to him. Juul’s Deep Throat police source plays a much smaller part in this book than in the first, and that is definitely a good thing. The supporting cast are quite good, especially one of the killers who is unwillingly dragged into this murky world, and one of Juul’s journalist colleagues.

However, despite all these good things, the book does not quite live up to the high standard set by the first. It’s good but, just not as fresh or fizzing with life. That having been said, it leaves a nice hook to the next episode, and the thrill of anticipation remains high. In other words, I’ll be buying the next one!

Score: 7.5/10.