Lazy Saturday Review: Cursed by Thomas Enger @OrendaBooks @EngerThomas

I haven’t felt any pressure reviewing for a while, but this particular book had me on edge, looking for the right way to convey just how I felt, without going into details, without missing important points, or without forgetting all I wanted to say. Okay, I can hear you from here. What’s the difference with every other review? The book is different. That’s the key!

From Lipsyy : I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

Title: Cursed
Author: Thomas Enger
Translation: Kari Dickson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: May 1st 2017 (paperback)
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 442
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, 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 Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. 

Sometimes the less you say, the better it is. I believe this is how you should enter Cursed, and this is why I decided to make this review a lazy one. I won’t go into details, I won’t delve into the plot, I will only scratch the surface and I am sure it will catch your attention. Cursed is a book that doesn’t need words, the book speaks for itself.

The first thing you notice is the cover. Those cold colors, the grandiose details of the trees and birds, it gives a familiar yet ominous feeling I had no choice but to fall for!

Then you have the title. I remember thinking “This is a fantasy book title!” I was fooled. Curses don’t only run in fantasy worlds, and the threat contained in this choice of title feels real. Extremely real.

In fact, everything feels extremely real in Cursed. The characters, the cold, the setting, the danger, the mystery. You don’t need to force your head around ideas, the perfectly spotless and cutting writing style naturally brings you into the middle of the story with no apparent effort. Kari Dickson’s work, just as real, is smooth and spot-on, making me believe that I wasn’t really reading a translation.

He always thought best when he was doing something other than thinking about what he needed to think about.

My favorite element: the journalistic side. But not your average ratings-greedy bag of smelly thing journalism. No, I mean real old school, stay up all night, dig up every detail, jump over fences journalists looking for the truth. Two different sides, parallels narrations I was waiting to see collide. A slow mystery starting in the most mundane way that hides a brilliantly gripping search filled with red herrings, curveballs, bad surprises, and a building tension that I hadn’t suspected at first. The plot is a ball that keeps rolling, dragging with it everything and everyone it touches until all pieces fit, for better or for worse.

Last but not least: the characters. I always emphasize the need for a strong plot, but no story can keep me hooked without the right protagonists. Cursed offers a heavy background you only get a taste of but feel the weight of. It wraps itself around the characters, around the story, around the whole book, and gives it a desperate and bittersweet taste. Fortunately, Nora and Henning both have broad shoulders and each has a reason for surviving in this grey world. Neither are super-heroes, nor do they try to be. They are driven people coping with intense, delicate, harrowing feelings and it taints every thought, every decision, and every action they take. The more you read, the more you get to know them, the less you want this book to end.

It’s strange, […], how much sadness we put up with in daily life, just for those few opportunities.

This book is Nordic crime at its best. I can only recommend Cursed to everyone; big fans of the genre, laymen in mystery, dragon lovers, the guy waiting in line at the butcher’s. I want to push the book on everyone. There’s a spell between those pages, and its power stems from the sophisticated writing style contrasting with the chilling and riveting crime it holds prisoner.

If you haven’t already, jump on this book in all good bookstores, on Amazon, or on the Orenda Books’ ebookstore

I would like to thank the publisher for my review copy and the author for his work.

I would like to state that Thomas Enger is a great author to chat with, do not hesitate to follow him on twitter @EngerThomas. And don’t be afraid of the killing plots.

if you want to know more about him, you can read the guest post he kindly shared with us during the Orenda Month back in March here: No, It’s Not YOU!

I was also lucky to get 5 Facts about him, here they are, accompanied by his biography!

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2009, 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.

KARI DICKSON read Scandinavian Studies at UCL and then went on to work in various theatres. While working in the theatre, she was asked to do literal translations of two Ibsen plays, which fuelled her interest and led to an MA in Translation at the University of Surrey.  Having worked initially as a commercial translator, she now concentrates on literary translation, a good deal of which is crime fiction. Her translation of Roslund & Hellström’s Three Seconds won the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) International Dagger in 2011. She is also an occasional tutor in Norwegian language and literature, and translation  at the University of Edinburgh.

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