Smoke Screen (Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm #2), by Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst

Eight stars

A longtime fan of Jørn Lier Horst and his writing, I was eager to see how this would translate into some collaborative work with Thomas Enger. The pair have come up with a great new series, with a Norwegian police officer and crime reporter working together to solve crimes. Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm are both at New Year’s Even celebrations in Oslo when a bomb explodes and kills many. Emma is able to help a woman who is in the water, only to realise that it is the mother of a young girl who has been missing for a decade. This opens up new questions about the kidnapping, which has both Blix and Ramm looking into things. What was presumed a kidnapping and murder may not be the case now, as new questions emerge. Horst and Enger pen yet another winner with this novel, which kept me reading until I got all the answers.

There is a buzz around Oslo for the New Year’s Eve celebrations and Emma Ramm is eager to witness it. At the strike of midnight, fireworks light up the sky, but there is also a bomb explosion, a suspected terrorist attack. In the mayhem, Ramm tries to help those in need and comes across Alexander Blix, a Detective Inspector with the Homicide division, with whom she has worked in the past. Noticing a body floating in the water, Emma rushes to help. It is only when the woman is brought to shore that she is identified as Ruth-Kristine Smeplass, mother to Patricia Smeplass, who was abducted at age two a decade before.

Emma’s journalist brain begins churning and she works with Blix to see if there are any new leads to follow. While Patricia has been kidnapped and presumed dead, someone may know something that could revitalise the case. When Emma receives some disturbing personal news, she is temporarily derailed and must trying to regain her focus. All the while, Blix ponders whether the bombing was terror related or if someone was targeting Ruth-Kristine for something.

As the investigation progresses, both Ramm and Blix work on leads that have them looking outside Norway for answers. Could Patricia Semplass still be alive? If so, where has she been for the last decade? A bomber is also on the loose, someone who may have answers that could shed light on the investigation and bring some peace to a family that has been in mourning for years. Horst and Enger work their magic again and have come up with a sensational thriller that is easily devoured in a few sittings.

I thoroughly enjoy books that work outside the cookie cutter outline for a police procedural. Horst and Enger do so effectively, while working two key angles throughout. Their writing is strong and keeps the reader engrossed in the story, without going too over the top. While I am always eager to read Horst’s independent work, this collaboration is refreshing and appeals to me as well!

Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm do well as joint protagonists. Both have their own personal stories that receive some attention throughout, but it is their collaborative efforts that create great character development, perfect as the series continues. They work well together, but also independently, allowing the reader to see how they bring their own spin to the larger case. This is sure to be a great series if both are highlighted with their strengths throughout.

Cold cases can sometimes be hard to keep ‘warm’, but the authors do well with this one. The narrative worked well, developing in a few directions and pacing itself so that the reader does not get lost, either in the present or flashback sequences. Great characters keep the plot moving and add a flavour to the writing so the reader is never left unimpressed. There is a strong sense of drama, which keeps the reader engaged and allows for some needed growth of the protagonists. The translation was seamless, leaving me to wonder how something that was not penned in English works so well. That being said, I have always found Jørn Lier Horst is able to write in such a manner as to make the narrative quite fluid. I have the next book in the series teed up and ready to go, so I will dive right in to see how I feel about it.

Kudos, Messrs. Horst and Enger, for another great read. I hope this series takes off and others enjoy it as much as I have.