Enger, Thomas - 'Scarred' (translated by Charlotte Barslund)
SCARRED is the third book in Thomas Enger's Oslo-set series featuring online journalist Henning Juul. This book starts very shortly after the end of the previous novel, PIERCED, opening with a prologue about a child who let his brother die without attempting to seek help in a snowfall accident. The novel proper, then starts with the discovery of the murder and mutilation of an elderly woman in a care home near Oslo, retired teacher and dementia sufferer Erna Pedersen. The nearest to a witness to the murder is the traumatised Ulrik, son of a care-worker at the home, who stumbled on the body. As he can give no useful information to the police, the team, led by Bjarne Brogeland, have to delve into the background of all the staff, visitors and volunteers to solve this seemingly motiveless murder.
At the same time as the care home murder hits the news, Henning's estranged sister, Norwegian Minister of Justice Trine becomes front page news. She has been accused of carrying out a sexual assault on an unnamed young male politician, an incident alleged to have taken place at the party conference. The reader learns straight away that Trine is completely innocent of this offence, but is unable or unwilling to defend herself as she has a guilty secret about what she did on the night in the question.
As Henning can't work on his sister's story, he focuses on the Pedersen case, utilising his police contact Brogeland. He looks into Erna Pederson's past as he suspects a revenge killing due to the brutality of the crime, even visiting the small town Jessheim, where Pederson originally lived and worked to try to talk to her former friends and colleagues. As Pederson was a rather strict and unpleasant teacher, and very unpopular even with her own son, this strengthens Henning's theory of a revenge crime.
However the case closest to his heart and that takes up most of Henning's attention is that of the fire set in his flat which killed his son, a plot arc that has been developed through the previous two novels in the series. Henning continues to follow up on the information provided by gangland enforcer Tore Pulli, and attempts to have a closer look at why the computerised police files relevant to the fire may have been doctored.
SCARRED is very well written and a smooth read, and Henning remains a well rounded and sympathetic character, still grappling with the death of his son, but getting back to some semblance of normal daily life. I found the sections from the point of view of the murderer rather unpleasant. The murderer appeared to be somewhat of a stereotype, complete with camouflage clothes, computer game addiction and general inadequacy, and I found the revenge theme a touch predictable.
I felt that the sections dealing with Trine and how she copes with the unravelling of the carefully controlled image and enforced break from her powerful job much more interesting, particularly in showing the media feeding frenzy and its psychological effect on her. This series has always been particularly strong in its depiction of the nature of the modern media. The backstory of Trine, Henning and their parents is also developed further. Some tantalising hints are cast about there being a dark secret that has caused the rift in Henning's family, and made Trine the golden child in the eyes of Christine Juul, The theme of sibling rivalry is also reflected in the backstory of Erna Pederson's murderer.
Overall I found SCARRED slightly disappointing by comparison to the previous two books in the series, but am looking forward to reading more about Henning Juul's adventures, as three more books are planned in this series.
Laura Root, England