I just finished reading a really good novel, sort of. Thomas Enger‘s novel Cursed is a good read. The characters are very human and engaging. I liked them and felt their pain and their (occasional) happiness. This was my first Enger novel, and I found his style attractive, above the average for the genre. But then, most Scandinavian crime writers are above average in their writing style. And their settings are dark and brooding, which I like in a crime novel. Their material is often referred to as Nordic Noir.
This novel develops three narrative arcs. First, the murder of a Swedish farmer and the disappearance of the adult daughter in a wealthy real estate family. As the novel progresses, the family’s dark secrets are gradually revealed. Second, the triangular relationships of journalist Henning Juul, his ex-partner Nora, also a journalist, and their colleague Iver. Henning and Nora have split up after losing their young son in an intentionally set fire. Nora is now in a relationship with Iver and is pregnant by him. And third, Henning’s attempt to find the person responsible for his son’s death. He is tortured by love for Nora and by the death of their son. Meanwhile, Nora is investigating the disappearance of the young woman, whom she knew in college. All three of these plot threads are handled beautifully as they are gradually intertwined and come together in the intense final chapters.
This is the fourth in Enger’s Henning Juul series, and the book seemed to function perfectly as a stand-alone novel, until I got to the final page. The ending was abrupt and dropped such a bizarre surprise, that I was confounded. I can only assume that it might make sense if I had read the earlier novels in the series. Perhaps someone who has read the earlier novels could confirm that for me. I confess that I liked the material enough that I will probably go back and try the earlier novels myself.