Today it’s my turn on the Blog-Tour for Cursed by Thomas Enger. Aside from my review, the all about the author and the book segments, the author was also kind enough to take part in a great Q&A.
About the Author
Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.
About the Book
When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s 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 death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. Chilling, gritty and unputdownable, Cursed marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson (it was great!)
Books or authors which have inspired you to put pen to paper? Henning Mankell (One Step Behind), Jo Nesbø (The Snowman), Harlan Coben (almost any book) and anything by John Hart.
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) Untouchables, the French movie about that man in a wheelchair and the relationship he develops with his caregiver. Fantastic movie.
Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible) I’m a bit of both, actually. Friday or Saturdays are usually movie nights in our house, but the other weekdays are more for binge watching TV series. I don’t know why it is that way, but that’s the way it is.
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Donald Trump, so I could tell him a few things.
All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Cursed!
Cursed is very turbulent and pulls the reader in a load of directions at the same time. This was my first Enger book and I enjoyed the way you brought together all the loose ends like a masterpiece of fine embroidery.
As I said above this was my first Thomas Enger read, although it certainly won’t be the last. Is the drawn and quartered style, ergo sending the reader off in multiple directions, a style you aim for or is just something that develops with the story? I certainly do like the reader to feel that there are multiple layers and plots in the story I’m telling. That’s the stories I would want to read myself, so that’s why I do it. I always have that in mind when I’m writing: I want to write stories that I would love to read myself.
Without divulging any spoilers I would like to compliment you on the Daniel Schyman sub-plot. A lot of people will still be unaware of the participation of certain countries in the Nazi atrocities and this was a subtle idea of reminding them. Was it your intention to remind your readers or rather did you always intend for this to be an integral part of Cursed? It was very much my intention to remind the readers, yes, or just to tell them. It was how the idea for Cursed came about, actually, I wanted to tell a story with a sub-plot dating back to the Second World War and how certain people enriched themselves on the behalf of Norwegians Jews. Then I started to think about how that could be an integral part of the Henning Juul saga. I am very pleased with how it turned out in the end.
In this book Henning seems to cross the line between investigation and necessary risks, and veering into unnecessary risk-taking a lot. Has he got a subconscious death wish, due to the guilt he feels about the death of Jonas? I don’t necessarily think he has a death wish, but he certainly doesn’t seem to care, does he, whether he survives or not. But I really think he does care, and that is one of the main themes in this series, how Henning starts from rock bottom and how he gradually rediscovers what life is and how wonderful it can be.
Similarly Nora appears to also make dangerous and frankly often brash decisions, which puts her life at risk. In her case it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with guilt, but is it possible that grief has made her just as neglectful when it comes to her own safety, as her ex Henning? Absolutely. Nora is trying to move on, and one of the ways for her to do that, is to submerge herself in work, so her mind can be otherwise occupied. She doesn’t stop when she finds herself in danger. In my mind there is another aspect to her psychology: she wants to prove herself, too. She wants to be every bit as good as Henning is. Or Iver, for that matter.
I have to ask, will there ever be a way back for Henning and Nora? Despite all the pain they seem to still need each other. There is a fifth instalment in the series you’ll have to read first before I can answer that question…
You hit the nail on the head with your swipe at the almost squeaky clean imagery of Scandinavia. Not only from a historical point of view, also in general. Is this your way of opening your readers eyes with fictional content laced with home truths? Definitely, but it’s not something that I’m very conscious about. My main goal when I write a book, is that it needs to be entertaining. I don’t have specific issues I want to address, with the possible exception of the Daniel Schyman sub-plot in Cursed.
Your ending made me laugh out loud. Not because it was funny, but because it is the perfect piece of cheese in a bookworm mousetrap. Was it an intentional hook on your part? Oh yes, I had planned that ending for YEARS, and it was so great to finally be able to write it down on an actual piece of paper.
Thank you for answering all my questions even the odd ones!
This was my first Thomas Enger book, although it is the fourth in the Henning Juul series. Enger combines a suave Nordic feel with forgotten sins of the past, buried crimes and strong characters. He doesn’t shy away from awkward topics or history some countries have tried really hard to forget and even tried to change the narrative in retrospect.
Henning and Nora are almost like a well-oiled team, except for the fact they are divorced and they are investigating different issues. Their paths tend to cross in this story in a way they both don’t expect.
It’s interesting to note that each one of them is driven by the guilt and grief they carry around with them. The death of their son has redefined their relationship, their lives and the way they deal with life in general. His death and the mystery surrounding the events of his death are a pivotal part of the story.
Another element of the story I really enjoyed was the Daniel Schyman sub-plot. I won’t go into too many details in case I spoil the story. Let’s just say the Scandinavians like to paint themselves with very white paint. Nothing is allowed to mar the image of perfection. Not now in the present and certainly not when it comes to the past. Dirty little secrets will always out.
Enger brings a riveting read to the table with his character driven plots. The emotional roller-coaster is balanced out by the intricate criminal story and finely woven storyline. The book ends with a wee bit of a bookworm mousetrap by baiting the trap with a lovely morsel. I definitely want to see where Enger takes Henning next, and I want to know the truth about Jonas.