Smoke Screen by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

It’s Oslo, New Year’s Eve and crowds are gathering for the annual fireworks display in the city square, when a huge explosion rocks the area and Oslo is put on terrorist alert. News and crime blogger, Emma Ramm, was down there hoping for some space from her boyfriend. Unfortunately Casper followed her, and was caught up in the explosion with fatal consequences. Instead of stopping and grieving, Emma becomes intrigued with another of the fatalities. Mrs Semplass is blown into the water off the quay and has suffered dreadful injuries. Police officer Alexander Blixx has rushed to help, and he brings Patricia out of the water but it is too late to save her. Ramm and Blixx have a past that will always connect them. He is something of a father figure to Ramm and his concern for her is touching, especially since she gets in his way so much. He also admires Ramm for what she can uncover and her tenacity when following the evidence, however much she treads on his toes. Yet she’s reckless at times and puts herself in dangerous situations which worries him. They both set out to investigate, not just the explosion but the coincidence.

They have come across Semplass before, her daughter Patricia was abducted many years ago, when she was only two years old. The crime remained unsolved and they never found Patricia, something that haunts Blixx to this day. Now that Ruth-Christine is dead, it is the last time Blixx may be able to look at this case again. When another familiar name comes up in the bombing investigation, Blixx suspects this is more than a coincidence and starts to dig. Blixx and Ramm begin parallel investigations in alternate chapters to each other; one hoping to find her boyfriend Casper’s killer, the other hoping to finally break a case that haunted him. They cross paths so many times, reaching the same conclusions, but using different methods. This is a very dark and complex case that will affect all of those concerned.

The characterisation was fantastic, each character was so immediately believable and whole. Emma is a dogged investigator, determined to find the truth whatever the cost to herself and unable to focus on the loss of Casper. She’d had doubts about the relationship before the explosion so she feels awkward. This is confused further when his parents try to look after her and take her back home with them for the funeral. When she finally agrees to stay with them she only manages 24 hours before wanting to be free, chasing her latest clue. It’s as if she’s unable to stand still or accept support from anyone, she prefers to stand alone. I loved how the author made even small characters sympathetic and interesting. A cleaner at the hotel where the bomber stayed really drew me in, first as she kept finding a ‘do not disturb’ sign on his hotel room door, but then in a tense scene as she walks home. She thinks she knows the missing man by his shoe laces, the pace intensifies as she hears someone behind her, the pace quickens and by the time she’s face to face with her pursuer my heart was racing!

The short chapters added to the pace and any switches between writer were seamless, as was the translation. The earlier chapters slowly set the story up and let us try and piece together the clues. The pace picked up considerably towards the end and I ended up reading very late at night to finish it. I’d made some correct guesses about what happened to Patricia Semplass, but I hadn’t fully worked out this complicated plot that neatly ties up all the loose ends. It was the perfect Scandi Noir novel: atmospheric, complex, dark and surprising. I finished the book with an immense sense of satisfaction and another series of novels to collect for my bookshelves.

Meet The Authors

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of five books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017. Rights have been sold to Germany and Iceland. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.


Jørn Lier Horst is one of Norway’s most experienced police investigators, but also one of Scandinavia’s most successful crime writers. He writes engaging and intelligent crime novels that offer an uncommonly detailed and realistic insight into the way serious crimes are investigated, as well as how both police and press work. His literary awards include the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, the Riverton Prize (Golden Revolver), the Scandinavian Glass Key and the prestigious Martin Beck Award.

Published by thelotusreaders

Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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