When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has recently been grieving for her dead father, her husband discovers that her life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what's more, she appears to be connected to the murder of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests...
Wow, what a novel. This is the first book I have read by Thomas Enger and you can label me a big fan, it only took me a couple of days to finish and I’ll certainly be looking out for more on Henning Juul. Gripping from the first page to last.
The novel opens with a striking scene: a man is walking through his forests with his dog and in no time at all, he is dead, shot. I loved the eerie atmosphere that Thomas created: ‘He knew that, right now, the forest would smell raw and cold, but soon the adders would slither out, unsure about what time of year it was.’ And so begins a dark and dangerous journey which will take our characters right to the terrifying edge in their quest to find answers.
Nora, a journalist working for a newspaper, is surprised when she is paid a visit by the husband of an old friend of her’s, Hedda Hellberg who she studied and shared accommodation with. Hedda’s husband is concerned for his wife’s whereabouts after she failed to return from a three week trip to Italy. The police have done little in their investigation to help find Hedda and her husband’s concerns are increasing and he has their son to think about who is missing his mother. Nora agrees to take on the case and she soon begins to build a picture which hides a dark past. But as Nora gets closer to the truth she finds that she might be putting herself in danger.
Meanwhile, Nora’s former partner, Henning, who is also a journalist is trying to find the man who set fire to his flat a couple of years ago whilst he is on leave. The fire killed his son and Henning is still reeling from what happened, whereas Nora has attempted to move on with her life. Searching for answers as to who was behind plot is the only thing keeping him going and focused on staying alive. But when the case with Hedda and Henning’s quest for answers is connected they have no idea what they are going to find.
This is Nordic Noir at its best. I haven’t read much in this genre since I read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series which was a few years ago but I’ll definitely be reading more now. Thomas grabs you by the throat with this one and I found the novel impossible to put down. I think my favourite scenes were probably the chapters when he followed Nora’s story as she delves into the Hellberg family unmasking a history of lies and deceit. There is also an added layer to the mystery of the Hellberg family that has haunted the family for decades: the disappearance of Hedda’s aunt. Is it possible that history is about to repeat itself? Can the past finally be put to rest?
I hope that Thomas is writing fast because that twist at the end really did knock me off balance. I really wasn’t expecting that revelation!
I think I have definitely found a series that I will keep coming back to with this one, if you enjoy Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, this is a book for you.
Thank you to Karen at Orenda for sending me a copy to review!
Publication date: 15th February 2017
Print length: 342 pages