Unhinged (DI Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm #3), by Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst

Eight stars

Back to read the latest collaborative work between Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, I had high expectations. The pair have crafted a great series that taps into many aspects of crime and investigation, using strong protagonists to get their point across. While at a speaking engagement, DI Alexander Blix receives numerous calls from one of his colleagues and his daughter. It is only later that he learns that a gunman entered their flat and killed the police officer. When Blix insists his daughter receive some therapy, things go awry as she is kidnapped from the office and held captive. Blix takes matters into his own hands and kills that man holding his daughter. However, questions arise as to whether this was the shooter, or if Blix was blinded by rage and simply shot a man for his own revenge. Horst and Enger work their magic again in this stunning piece!

While Detective Inspector Alexander Blix is speaking to a large group, he receives several calls on his mobile, both from Inspector Sofia Konica and his own daughter, Iselin. It is only after the fact that Blix learns of the horror they went through, where Kovic was murdered, execution style, and Iselin barely escaped the killer as she hid in her apartment below. Blix begins trying to piece it all together, working with crime reporter, Emma Ramm, only to learn that Kovic had been working on some corruption within the department.

After convicting Iselin to receive some therapy from one of the psychologists on staff, Blix feels slightly at ease, especially when Emma agrees to take her. Things get turned on their head when Iselin is kidnapped from the office and taken into custody, fuelling Blix’s desire to save his daughter at any cost. When he tracks down where Iselin is being held, things go awry as she is almost killed again and Blix shoots the man, unarmed, in the back. Thus begins a series of issues for the decorated officer.

While Blix is being interrogated by Oslo Police ,Iselin clings to life in the hospital. Emma, feeling guilty for not being there for Iselin, straddles both worlds and tries to help her friend as well as be supportive. It is only then that the truth comes out and Blix begins to discover that things may not be as they seem. Could the killer still be on the loose? Fuelled by a need for answers and a tragic turn of events, Blix does all he can to reveal the truth, once and for all. Another great novel in this new series that is sure to have readers intrigued.

Horst and Enger have shown that they can effectively work in collaboration without losing any of their personal style. I have long been a fan of Jørn Lier Horst’s work, but this was a refreshing spin on things, allowing me to see how the ideas can vary between the two popular authors. A gritty story that takes the reader in many directions, there is a little of everything to culminate in a stunning ending. While I do love Horst’s solo work, I have come to enjoy this series as well, hoping that there is more to come.

Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm share the limelight as protagonists once again. Personal stories flood the narrative, as the reader will discover, but there is a strong sense of character development within, even as Blix struggles with the friendship he has with Ramm. This is surely a darker story, one that taps into things that many authors do not reveal about their leads, but I felt it necessary to show the realism they share and the struggles that permeate just below the surface on occasion. I will gladly accept more development and backstory when the authors return for another instalment of the series, as I have come to really enjoy these two, working alone or in tandem.

This was likely one of the darkest Scandinavian noir books that I have read in a while, though not because of the crime being presented. Rather, it was more the angst and personal pain presented throughout and the attempt to set things straight once more. The narrative was strong and kept me wondering throughout, as things progressed and took turns I could not have expected. Great characters fit well alongside a plot that left me hooked as I read well into the evening. Short chapters offered a tease of what is to come and I could not get enough, even as I tried to put the book down doer a period of time. This is a series worth noting for those who love Scandinavian thrillers like no other. The translation was once again quite seamless, making me wonder how this could not have been a book penned in English from the outset. I am eager to see if Horst and Enger have more collaborative plans, as there is something to be said for two powerhouses working together to create something even better!

Kudos, Messrs. Horst and Enger, for another great story. Series fans are in a for a treat with this.

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.

Death Deserved, by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

Eight stars

When I learned that Jørn Lier Horst was writing a new series, I have to get my hands on it. Collaborating with Thomas Enger (about whom I know nothing), I was hoping for something as exciting coming from this Norwegian duo. Alex Blix is a Violent Crimes detective working in Oslo, having risen through the ranks over the years. When he is called to the scene of a missing woman, it turns out that she is a well-known sports personality. Blix encounters an eager journalist, Emma Ramm, who wants a scoop for her publication. Blix is hesitant to leak her much of anything, not wanting to anger the higher-ups or jeopardise the case. While working the case, Blix is saddled with a new hire, hoping that she will be independent and allow him to continue making progress on the case. Soon, another sports personality hits the headlines, this one a murdered footballer who was found on the property of the missing woman. Blix and Ramm begin to join forces and find that there have been other killings, all of which fit a crazy pattern. Able to loosely predict who might be next, Blix and Ramm seek to stay one step ahead of the game. All the while, Blix’s daughter is a contestant on a reality show in Norway that has everyone buzzing. Will she win and how will this notoriety reflect on her father? With a serial killer on the loose, Alex Blix has no time to waste, while Emma Ramm seeks to find the perfect headline to coax them out of the shadows. A wonderfully chilling thriller that shows yet again that writing quality can cross the language barrier, given the proper handling. Recommended to those who enjoy Horst’s other work, as well as the reader who finds solace in Scandinavian thrillers.

I am not sure that I can say why, but I thoroughly enjoy reading books set in Scandinavia, particularly by authors from the region. They are usually of such high quality and their translation into English is never something that ruins the flow. Jørn Lier Horst Is one of the best I have encountered, though I know other readers have a list they could offer me. Alex Blix proves to be a wonderful protagonist who holds onto a dark past, which comes out in the preface. His attention to detail and desire to solve crimes is apparent throughout, though he has a number of stumbling blocks, not least of which being his independent streak. The authors develop him nicely here and I am eager to see how he will grow as the series continues. Emma Ramm does not receive as much attention in this piece, but her position is surely one the authors can add to, given the opportunity. The Blix-Ramm pairing will work well, playing both sides of the coin to develop a strong story. The narrative itself flowed very well, mixing brief chapters with longer ones and peppering in the perfect amount of dialogue. I find that reading these books, I get lost in a lot of the references, as they are local and unpronounceable to me, but the overall experience is one that I adore. Horst and Enger work well together, as the piece flows so easily as to be devoured in short order. I see a sequel has been written (though not yet released in English). I am eager to see how it will play out and cannot wait to read that book as well.

Kudos, Messrs. Horst and Enger, for a strong opening book in the series. I hope your collaborative efforts continue, but I do want more translated William Wistling (hint, Mr. Horst).

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons