This is the fourth in a series of novels penned by this author (the others being Burned, Pierced, Scarred, respectively) and features recurring characters from the series, not least the two protagonists, Henning Juul and his ex-wife Nora. Obviously, the concern with a series is whether one can enjoy it as a newbie. I came to Cursed having not read any of Enger’s previous work, and while there is backstory that I feel I would have benefitted from, enough is explained in this novel when need-be for it not to have spoilt my enjoyment.
Henning and Nora are both journalists. In Cursed, they both end up working on the same story: the disappearance of Hedda Hellberg, a woman from one of Sweden’s wealthiest families. Hedda booked a few weeks at an Italian retreat but never arrived. What’s more, the retreat has no record of her ever booking. The last that was seen of Hedda was when her husband dropped her off at the airport. The husband asks Nora for help as she and Hedda were college roommates. This Nora does, but the case soon becomes murky as it appears that Hedda is somehow connected to the death of an old man gunned down in the forest.
Henning, meanwhile, is pursuing those he believes are responsible for the death of his son (he and Nora broke up after an arson attack on their home which killed him) which leads him to immerse himself in Sweden’s organised crime syndicates. His case leads him to Nora’s which prove to be intertwined.
One of the strong points in this novel is Henning and Nora’s relationship, both wracked with grief by the death of their son, an event which understandably rent their relationship in two. They still care for each other deeply, perhaps still love each other, but tragedy has left a chasm between them.
The plot is handled adroitly, though the backstory of the threats to Hennings life, the different organised crime figures he’s investigated in previous books, people who were sent to prison, died, might have had reason to target him resulting in the fatal arson attack on his home, did get a little confusing at times.
That said, Cursed is a gripping novel with strong characters and if anything, this complex backstory, rather than put me off, has had me buying Enger’s previous volumes.
4 out of 5 stars.