Taking place soon after the end of BURNED this second novel from Norwegian journalist Thomas Enger is a welcome addition to the series; managing to continue the good traits noticeable in the first book while controlling the wildness of plot that marred the debut a little for me. PIERCED’s protagonist is Henning Juul, a journalist for an online publication (just like his creator once was) whose only son was killed in a house fire two years earlier. Juul is far from recovered from this trauma, either physically or emotionally. He is contacted by Tore Pulli, a prison inmate who claims to be innocent and is prepared to exchange knowledge of what happened the night of the fire that killed Juul’s son in return for Juul’s investigation into the murder Pulli has been convicted of. Blaming himself for his son’s death Juul cannot refuse to become involved in the hope of learning something about the events surrounding his son’s death.
Juul is a great character; not entirely likeable but totally believable. His struggles with guilt over his son’s death and the physical and mental problems resulting from only just having survived the fire himself are very realistic. But though this is a constant presence in the character’s life Juul does get on with some semblance of a normal life, in particular his work (though this is a bit sad if you are the sort of person who has ever admired journalism as a profession). A key aspect of his character development from the first book is that here his personal relationships, notably with his ex-wife and the journalist she is now in a relationship with, are far more mature and nuanced.
There are other very well drawn characters too. There’s a television cameraman who gets caught up in the case surrounding Tore Pulli in a most terrifying way and whose life spirals out of control rather rapidly as a result. Enger tugs at reader’s emotions with this character’s tribulations but there’s nothing saccharine about the way this is done. I loved the way this thread forced me to ponder what I would do in the given circumstances even though I was a little uncomfortable with my conclusions.
The story in PIERCED is complicated but overall it is more restrained than that of its predecessor and is much more successful at combining the investigative and thriller elements of the plot. The investigation into the murder that Tore Pulli was convicted of is quite fascinating, involving the shady end of the fitness industry and associated minor celebrities. And the long-running back story of Juul’s son’s death does not overwhelm the book or threaten to become on of those ‘oh we’re back to this again’ devices that feel like the crutch of lazy writers. The reader does get a sense of real development in this thread and it’s definitely a motivation to eagerly await the next instalment.
I think you could read this ably translated novel without having read the first but, even though I thought the plot of BURNED a little outrageous, I’d recommend you start at the beginning before moving onto this book. What are you waiting for?
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PIERCED has been reviewed at Crimepieces and Petrona
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My rating 4/5
Translator Charlotte Barslund
Publisher Faber and Faber 
Length 399 pages
Format eBook (kindle)
Book Series #2 in the Henning Juul series
Source I bought it
Thanks for the link to my blog Bernadette. I think I preferred the second book too – I certainly liked the ending more. I often don’t like books when they end on a cliff hanger but I’m looking forward to book 2 to see where the story goes. I agree that Henning Juul is a very good character.
Spot on, Bernadette! I agree that Pierced is more mature than Burned, for all the reasons you write, and the plotting both much better & more realistic. I was glad that Enger dropped the “superman” elements of Juul’s character (in Burned he goes into a room of villains & somehow comes out alive). I liked the cameraman subplot and like you found it challenging in a good way. Roll on the next installment.
It is rather enjoyable to watch a series/author mature into the writing. I certainly liked BURNED enough to read the next one but this one felt much more solid. Roll on the next one indeed.
Great review, Bernadette, and you resolved a problem for me. The Nordic Crime reading group I belong to is ankle deep in Norwegians at the moment, and I have been struggling to identify why I enjoy Enger’s work so much more than Anne Holt or Jo Nesbo – it’s the plotting, the wild and sometimes woolly plotting of Holt and Nesbo! And you’re spot-on about the characters’ development; they’re unusual but believable and that makes for good reading.
Thanks again –
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