Unhinged by Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger is published with Orenda books and is Number 3 in the Blix & Ramm series. Lier Horst and Enger are two well-renowned Nordic Noir writers. Lier Horst’s police procedurals are characterised as having a ‘brutal and chilling realism’ and Enger’s thrillers as ‘raw, emotional and character-driven.’ Their union brings these two writing styles together creating a series of incredibly accomplished books that are described as ‘explosive, staggeringly complex and unbearably emotive…will take your breath away.’ With seamless translation by the amazing Megan Turney, Unhinged immerses the reader in a seriously thrilling Scandinavian read.
It is always a challenge to review a book like this as there is the potential of accidentally dropping a spoiler so I will tip toe my way around it and give it a shot. I first became acquainted with police officer Alexander Blix & news blogger Emma Ramm when I read Death Deserved in April 2020, a book that quite simply blew me away. This was exactly how I liked my crime fiction – ‘a smooth, taut and tangled tale that will get under your skin from the beginning. An excellent launchpad for a new thrilling, compelling and completely addictive series.’ In December 2020 I dived into Smoke Screen, book 2 in the series which I described as a more personal reading experience and not as frenetic, ‘a clever story that completely captured my attention’. As the series develops the relationship between Blix and Ramm constantly shifts but it is taken to a whole new level with Unhinged.
Sofia Kovic is a colleague of Blix, an intrepid worker who leaves no stone uncovered in her search for the truth. When she makes an alarming discovery during an investigation she has no idea of the nest she has disturbed until she meets her executioner in her own home. Iselin, Blix’s daughter, rents a room from Kovic and happens to be upstairs at the time. A frenzied escape with some minor injuries leaves Iselin lucky but traumatised by the events of the day. As soon as Blix arrives on the scene he is justifiably concerned for Iselin’s continued safety as a witness to Kovic’s murder.
Four days later, Alexander Blix is sitting in an interrogation room at Kripos, Norway’s National Crime Investigation Service, while Emma Ramm is in another. Both are being questioned regarding the murder of a man. Both are on the wrong side of the table. Blix is under pressure and struggling to keep his focus during questioning. His thoughts are all over the place reaching back into the previous few days and the action he took. Was his judgement based on evidence or revenge?
Following on from his interrogation, Blix is faced with insurmountable challenges that could break a lesser person. Emma Ramm is in no-man’s land trying to come to terms with her decisions. In Unhinged Blix and Ramm took a path from which there is no return. The past cannot be changed and what happens next is truly shocking and devastating for both of them and also for the reader. With short, sharp chapters the pace of Unhinged never lets up, which left me reeling on more than one occasion. The dynamic of Blix and Ramm is painted with such authenticity. Their relationship goes back many years but now, it is potentially irreparably damaged. The mental anguish is raw. The anger is palpable. The fear of the unknown is evident as the story reaches its unsettling conclusion
Unhinged is an electrifying addition to this series. It can easily be read as a standalone but do yourself a favour and start from the beginning. A pulse-pounding, heart-breaking, emotional journey I actually was left with a serious book hangover after turning the final page. Unhinged is a book that left its mark. Reading a series from the beginning encourages attachments between the reader and the main protagonists. When their lives become unstable, when they feel pain, you have a sense of it too from the pure quality of the writing. Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger really are a dynamic pairing. Their ability to create such ‘real’ characters with authentic feelings and experiences adds to their excellence as a writing team.
Unhinged is another engrossing read in this very smart and tense series, one that consists of many layers and always surprises. Scintillating writing, fiery content, spirited personalities all combine and play with the emotions to provide the reader with a top-notch experience. More please Mr Lier Horst and Mr Enger!
(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)
Order your copy online here.