This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘Alexander Blix is a broken man. Convicted for avenging his daughter’s death, he is now being held in one of Norway’s high-security prisons. Inside, the other prisoners take every opportunity to challenge and humiliate the former police investigator.
‘On the outside, Blix’s former colleagues have begun the hunt for a terrifying killer. Walter Kroos has escaped from prison in Germany and is making his way north.
‘The only lead established by the police is that Kroos has a friend in Blix’s prison ward. And now they need Blix’s help.
‘Journalist Emma Ramm is one of Blix’s few visitors, and she becomes his ally as he struggles to connect the link between past and present, between the world inside and outside the prison walls.
‘And as he begins to piece things together, he identifies a woodland community in Norway where deeply scarred inhabitants foster deadly secrets… secrets that may be the unravelling of everyone involved.’
Stigma, by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, picks up with Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm not long after the events of Unhinged.
Blix is in prison for killing the man responsible for his daughter Iselin’s death and, as an erstwhile detective, is treated much how you’d expect by the other convicts.
Even so, he still thinks like an investigator, and obliges when his former boss asks him to find out what he can about fellow inmate Jarl Inge Ree’s connection with Walter Kroos, a murderer who’s escaped from prison in Germany.
Blix shares his inside (no pun intended) knowledge with loyal friend Emma, meaning she’s the first journalist on the scene in the village of Osen – where Jarl Inge comes from, and Walter is believed to be heading…
I really enjoyed Stigma. I sped through it because it’s such a smooth read (thanks, as ever, to Megan Turney’s outstanding translation) and I was constantly wanting to find out what happened next.
Even though I’ve only read one other book in the series (so far!), I felt close enough to Blix to worry about how he would fare in prison. There are quite a few heart-stopping moments when other prisoners are threatening or violent towards him.
It’s a credit to Blix’s character that he manages to keep his head down and de-escalate situations as much as he does, and that he remains curious, observant, and conscientious despite having lost virtually everything.
Emma’s side of the investigation, meanwhile, takes her to a campsite in Osen. Through her conversations with the locals, as well as chapters from the perspectives of Walter and campsite manager Samantha Kasin, we learn that Walter met Samantha, Jarl Inge, and other then-young people from the area, as a teenager on a family holiday there in 2004.
I can’t really say much more without spoiling the story, but suffice it to say that something awful happened during Walter’s stay that changed the courses of several lives for the worse, forever. The gradual revelation of exactly what happened back then, along with watching events unfold in Osen in the present day, kept me on the edge of my seat.
The conclusion both satisfied and left an emotional impression on me. There’s a real sense of “wasted lives” around several of the characters, often resulting from factors that might have been avoided: impulsive actions with far-reaching consequences, lack of communication, or being failed by those who were supposed to protect them.
I was left wondering, though: what next for Blix and Ramm? I would certainly be happy to see more of them!
Stigma is gripping, fast-paced, and evocative.