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.

Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, by Omarosa Manigault Newman

Seven stars

At a time when political division and mud-slinging is at its height in America, I knew that pulling this book off the shelf may be an issue. Not only for me as a reader—forced to sit through more slanderous accounts of a man who lives for chaos—but also the blowback of some who will discover my current reading choice and eventual review. I left this book to steep for a while, though had a gap in my reading experience and chose to stick a toe out to test the waters of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s personal life with the current POTUS. The author opens her book with a narrative of the day she was fired—read ‘asked to resign’—from the West Wing, for reasons she could not fathom. I’ll leave it to the reader to parse through both accounts to decide for themselves, though something surely does not add up when trying to mesh the Omarosa and General Kelly version of events. From there, the reader is subjected to a snapshot biographical narrative that explores young Omarosa as she made her way from poverty to a number of important decisions that saw her step away from food stamps and into a life of champagne and five-course meals. She worked very hard and had wonderful opportunities throughout, including the chance to meet a few of the ‘loves of her life’ and find solace in God by being ordained. Brief work in the Clinton White House helped shape her political insights, which would be so useful in the years to come. The reader is then sent on a whirlwind tour of Omarosa the reality television star, when she made it as a contestant on Season 1 of The Apprentice, where Donald J. Trump saw her and they created an odd bond. Omarosa explains that she never sold out, sticking true to the woman she always was, which appeared to appeal to Trump. Omarosa defends the man and his arrogance as a sort of business acumen, though hindsight is always more interesting. Trump had always been a political beast, according to Omarosa, until the arrival of Barrack Obama. It was then that Trump exuded hatred for the man who would lead the country for two terms. The narrative offers questions about Trump’s racist nature, particularly towards Obama, but I will leave that to the reader to explore. When politics came knocking, Omarosa was there for Trump, working to build African-American relations for the candidate and campaign as a whole. Omarosa did all she could and, as far as she will admit, admired Trump and his rhetoric. The narrative moves through the campaign, the election, and the transition, all one massive dream, with hints of the nightmare that was to come. When she made it to the White House, Omarosa had high hopes for herself and the country, though was surrounded by so many sycophants that it is hard to see what was real and what was jockeying to stay one person ahead of the knives. Exploring her time in the Trump White House, Omarosa offers not only poignant insider information about events that may not have been released by media outlets, but also her own spin on the actors involved and the fallout used to favourably flavour it. The interested reader will find these chapters of most interest, including her insights into the mental acuity of the Leader of the Free World. I do understand that there will be the eternal defenders who cite it all as sour grapes, but I leave it to the reader to decide for themselves. As the terror continued, it was only a matter of time until Omarosa had to get out, as she could not stand what was playing out. Her departure, as discussed in the book’s introduction, appeared not to jive with what POTUS was told. Then again, when has a story ever been clear and concise with Trump involved? Well written for what it is, the reader can take this book with a grain of salt. It is worth noting, though, that there is a balance found within these pages, which seems to substantiate the narrative more than a smearing tell-all, right?

I’ll be the first to admit, the first I had heard of Omarosa was when she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in the United States. I never had time for The Apprentice or Trump, whatever he was branding, though his jester-like attitude only added to the turn-off. So, when I chose to read this book, I entered with somewhat of a clean slate, as least when it came to the author. Omarosa offers some interesting insight into her life and how she climbed the ladder to become who she was. Her dedication to a man that offered her praise is interesting, though I will be the first to sit here and ask, ‘When you saw the issues, why did you stay quiet?’. The simple answer to that would be to ensure she remained in the ‘inner circle’, as well as her constant theme of ‘Trump loyalty’. That does leave me wondering how long one must sell one’s beliefs and let others trample on them before it is too much. Omarosa counters that life in the Trump Circle is cult-like, with many still under his influence, while those on the outside are gagged and mocked. The theme throughout this piece is surely ‘I should have done better’ and ‘look at the mess from my perspective’. Both valid points, but it does not serve anyone well to sit here and look back, shaking one’s head and seeking pity. Omarosa made decisions and chose to chum with certain individuals. She readily admits that she sold out and chose to turn away from red flags because power was too intoxicating and she felt a need to protect the man. She sits here, penning this book, and slings mud at many people—who deserve the mess—but there is no way that she comes across as clean in the entire disaster. If the reader is to find nuggets of insider information, they must also see that Omarosa willingly sanctioned their use by not standing up. Is this a book filled with sour grapes, as the West Wingers would have us believe? Perhaps there is a degree of that, but there is also something interesting embedded in these pages. The narrative speaks and substantiates things that were rumoured beforehand about Trump and those closest to him. I asked myself throughout, could these comments be simple lies, spun to make Trump look bad, or is there some truth to all of this? Using the buzzword of the Trump presidency, could a number of people who have since left the ‘tent’ be colluding, or is there some merit to what is being said? Is Trump the ass that he is seen to be and does he have misogynistic and racists tendencies? I suppose I will leave that to the reader, though it would seem a little too far-fetched for me to believe that so many people created a fake narrative and kept building on it for their own pleasure. Is this a stunning tell-all piece that readers will devour and find gobs of wonderful gossip? No, not at all. Is it entertaining and thought-provoking? Not really, but it does offer some interesting water cooler conversation about just how troublesome it is to see sexism, racism, and the intended decline of American greatness embodied in one man and those who chose to turn away and justify it as ‘ok, since I can have a place at the table’. As we await the results of the next four to six years in the American political drama, the reader can ask themselves where they stand and what they can expect. I have been berated by those who say I have no right to say anything, as I am not American. To those people, I remind repeatedly that while they are fine having freedoms removed or be bullied for speaking out, I am pleased to have the right to speak my own mind and formulate my own opinions. Ignorance and arrogant behaviour have their place, but I will never sanction them or feel it is acceptable to berate people for speaking for equality, justice, and basic human rights.

Kudos, Madam Manigault Newman, for the interesting piece. While not a stunner, you did sell the point that power makes good people do stupid things and then seek pity for them. I have to ask… who gave you the idea to offer such an ‘interesting’ accent for POTUS in the audio version of this book?

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