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Burned: A Novel by Thomas Enger
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Burned: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Thomas Enger

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2043457,485 (3.6)13
Member:bfister
Title:Burned: A Novel
Authors:Thomas Enger
Info:Atria Books (2011), Edition: Original, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Norway, Oslo, murder, honor killing, journalists, journalism, crime fiction

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Burned by Thomas Enger (2011)

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Burned is the debut novel of Norwegian Thomas Enger, and the first in a series. The scenario is an interesting one and for a change does not involve a police officer or private detective as the main character. Oslo-based investigative journalist Henning Juul returns to work for an online newspaper two years after a fire took his young son's life, destroyed his apartment and left Henning himself physicaly and emotionally scarred. Upon his return he is immediately involved in the reporting of the murder of a young female film student, who met her death by being half-buried and stoned to death in a tent in an Oslo park. It has all the hallmarks of a radical Islamic sharia-type killing, and the young woman's Muslim boyfriend quickly becomes the main police suspect, a development that Juul seems quite sceptical about. He proceeds to dig into the dead student's life, that of her Muslim boyfriend and her college friends in an effort to find the truth.

There are a number of different aspects to this book; Juul's personal life, the immigrant Muslim community in Oslo, the characters of certain police officers, and the crime itself. Juul has acquired some obsessive behaviours as a result of the fire that claimed his son's life: he constantly changes the batteries in the smoke detectors in his home and he is extra cautious as to where he sits in public places. His mother is a drunk and his ex-wife is now, awkwardly enough, the partner of a colleague he has to work closely with. Enger can be well applauded for giving the main character a background that makes him all the more interesting as a person. Regarding the Muslim angle, you never quite know one way or the other as to its purpose - is it integral to the crime, a sub-plot or a red herring? Is the Muslim angle merely there to portray a certain element of the Muslim community and how the community is perceived in Norway?

This is a story with twists and turns and something of a surprise ending, which by and large works. Yet some aspects seemed a little convoluted and stretched the imagination a bit, case in point being the student film-making angle. The storyline around Juul's police contact and his sexual infatuation with a female colleague seems underdeveloped to the point where you wonder about its inclusion at all. Of course the fact that 'Burned' is the first in a series does leave open the possibility of any unanswered questions or underdeveloped storylines that you feel might exist at the end being addressed in the follow-up books.

Overall, a promising enough first novel that I can well recommend, and I will certainly be reading the second in the series, 'Pierced', in due course. ( )
  ebyrne41 | Nov 6, 2013 |
On his first day back at work after nearly 2 years’ absence Henning Juul, a reporter for an online news outlet, is immediately thrown into a major investigation. A young female film student has been found (by the ubiquitous dog walker) stoned to death inside a tent in an Oslo public park. Due to the manner of death and the specific body mutilations, and the fact the girl’s boyfriend is Muslim, the official investigation is quick to focus on a possible religious angle to the crime but Henning feels there is more at play. However he’s not even sure he can function as a journalist after so long out of the game, and takes a while to find his feet.

There was much to like about this book though, for me, the plot was a bit of a let down. Starting with the positives though the characters are all first rate; even the ones I hated were entirely believable and well drawn. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Juul is a damaged man, both physically and psychologically, since losing his young son Jonas in a house fire two years previously. The guilt, the obsessive changing of smoke alarm batteries, the disconnection from the people around him, the desperation to find something ‘normal’ to cling on to, all help to build up a very credible picture of Henning Juul. What I liked most is that he is not an entirely sympathetic character and I suspect this must have been harder to tease out than someone who engenders nothing but compassion in the reader.

The character I particularly despised was Detective Inspector Bjarne Brogleand who is one of the two police investigators on the case and he spends his every waking moment fantasizing about his partner, a female cop. The language he uses in his thoughts is crude and disgusting and the thoughts themselves made me angry more than once but it is a realistic depiction of the kind of man who sees women as nothing more than sexual objects. Credible though he undoubtedly is I’m really not going to line up to spend any more time in his repugnant company.

The story started well, incorporating its gruesome but not gratuitous opening scene into a broader narrative that seemed to be heading in an interesting direction. It also gave a great depiction of modern journalism where online news has an insatiable need for new content to the point that veracity and accuracy are less important than having something new a few minutes before the competitors have it. The discussion of the disparity between what people say they want to read and what online outlets know (from click-through data) people actually read was particularly poignant given recent events in the UK media. But about half-way through the book I really did lose interest in what I found to be an increasingly disjointed and, at times, downright nonsensical, plot. I can’t say too much without giving spoilers but there was quite a bit that didn’t ring true for me. Things like Juul having a highly placed ‘Deep Throat’ style informant (who never slept and knew absolutely everything going on in official circles) and the triple-twist to the crime’s resolution just felt a bit too contrived for me. In the end it felt like a few too many ideas had been thrown in at the last minute and one or two could have been saved for a future outing. I did like the loose-end feel to the story though (which is not one for those obsessed with justice being done).

I didn’t deliberately pluck this book from my TBR pile in light of recent events in Norway but once I had decided to read it I hoped it might shed some light on its setting. In that I was for the most part disappointed, though perhaps learning that Norwegian society is very similar to my own is the lesson I’m meant to learn from my global reading. Overall I thought this a solid debut novel, particularly with respect to its characters, with a nicely unnoticeable translation by Charlotte Barslund (I tend only to think about translations when the language doesn’t feel right and that never happened here). The plotting will need to improve though for the series to deliver on the promise it shows here. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Burned is a good read, but I had very high expectations and I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't rate this a 4.5 or 5. But it's the first in a series, and I'll likely read the second book due out shortly. The protagonist is an Oslo journalist, recently returned to work following a lengthy rehab to recover from burns suffered in a fire in which his young son died. He is haunted by that event, and there are many, many references to the tragedy. Henning is soon assigned a story involving the death of a young woman seemingly by stoning following certain Muslim traditions. Her Muslim boyfriend is quickly arrested but Henning has his doubts and pursues his own inquiries. Along the way we discover that Henning's ex is now together with one of his colleagues; Henning's reactions are reminiscent of a lovelorn high school boy. Before long Henning discovers a script written by a nearby arts student - the script closely mirrors events surrounding the death of the stoned victim. Before long there are more bodies, and then - Voila! Case solved!!....or is it. I felt the script tie-in was too contrived after a while though the final resolution wa satisfactory. One other annoyance I had with the book was that the prose seemed clumsy at points. I suspect it was tied to a so-so translation. But lines like "...you almost shuddered when I, your husband, came near you." "I, your husband"???? C'mon, man. Never read anything like that in Asa Larsson, Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, etc. Distracting. One other concern, to be evaluated in book two is whether or not the author ties to milk the son dying in the fire bit for a third book. If so, it's hasta la vista, baby for me. ( )
  maneekuhi | Aug 2, 2012 |
Book Title: "Burned"
Author: Thomas Enger
Published By: Atria Books
Age Recommended: 18 +
Reviewed By: Kitty Bullard
Raven Rating: 5

Review: A mystery of horrific intensity, “Burned” grabs you from the first page and refuses to let go. When a young woman is found buried in the earth from her waist down and has been the victim of a ritualistic stoning, Henning Juul is called in to investigate. The plot continues to thicken as he uncovers what is suspected to be a religious act only to find out it goes much deeper. This novel has it all, from struggles with racism, to the secret truth you’ll be shocked to learn what is really going on and who the ultimate culprit is.

I definitely recommend this novel, though a word of warning; it does contain some dark and horrific conscious imagery.

Read more: http://www.greatmindsthinkaloud.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board... ( )
  RavenswoodPublishing | Apr 6, 2012 |
Henning Juul, a badly-scarred journalist who survived a fire in which his six year old son died, is just returning to work at an online news organization when he is assigned to cover a murder – a particularly newsworthy one. A woman’s body has been found in a public common. She appears to have been brutally executed in an honor killing using aspects of Sharia law, which leads the police to zero in on her Muslim boyfriend.

Juul has an anonymous source deep within the police who gives him just enough information about the investigation to question whether they are jumping too quickly to the wrong conclusion.

The high-pressure online news environment is well portrayed, as is Juul’s struggle to maintain some journalistic integrity in an environment where cheap thrills and celebrity gossip rule. He’s an interesting character who hasn’t recovered from the trauma of losing his son. He obsessively checks his smoke detectors and tests himself with matches.

The first third or so of the book had a lot of narrative energy along with an intriguing newsroom setting to get my hopes up in spite of an opening murder that seemed theatrically gruesome. (The victim, a beautiful young woman whose chief occupation is being dead, has been buried up to her neck, had her hand severed, and has been stoned to death inside a tent in a public place. I kept wondering how long it would take to dig a hole like that, and how you could erect a tent, haul in a lot of large rocks, bury a stunned person in the ground without them recovering consciousness, and carry out dismemberment and a stoning without anyone noticing. A tad over the top?) Unfortunately, though I was becoming won over by the lead character, the story grew so convoluted and improbable that by the end I wasn’t sure what was going on and I didn’t really care.

If I hear good things about the next book in the planned series, I might give it a go. But apart from the energy of the newsroom setting and Juul’s superstitious testing of his eight smoke alarms, there wasn’t enough of what I look for in a mystery. I want to get to know the characters. I want to care about the crime that has been committed and believe in the motives that led to it. I like good pacing, but I don’t care much for twists and turns that seem mainly intended to give me whiplash. Surprise! Surprise again!! Basically, I want stories built to human scale that make emotional sense. I suspect Thomas Enger could tell a good story (and with translator Charlotte Barslund, he’s in good hands) but this one got tangled up in nonsensical plotting and unlikely violence that, for me, overcame its strengths.
  bfister | Jan 15, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571275176, Hardcover)

A Brutalised Victim in the Wilds: A solitary tent is found to contain the body of a half-buried woman. She's been stoned to death. There are lash marks across her back. One of her hands has been cut off. A Lone Voice: Two years earlier internet reporter Henning Juul lost his son, Jonas, in a domestic fire. As he returns to work, physically and emotionally scarred, Henning struggles to escape this past and to be taken seriously again as a reporter - by his colleagues, his ex-wife and the police. A Mystery Ignited: Told to cover the story of the woman in the tent, he finds an increasingly dangerous trail and, despite an early arrest, he is convinced that the story is more complex than the police think...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:52 -0400)

A solitary tent is found to contain the body of a half-buried woman, stoned to death. There are lash marks across her back. One of her hands has been cut off. Journalist Henning Juul finds an increasingly dangerous trail and, despite an early arrest, he is convinced that the story is more complex than the police think.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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