In their fourth fruitful collaboration, Norwegian superstar crime writers Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger remain faithful to the recipe that made Blix&Ramm series one of the most popular sagas in Nordic crime fiction. Combining various of the genre's most intriguing tropes with social awareness and fleshed out characterization, Stigma, is the most mature installation so far and the story is bound to entice both the authors' loyal fans and new readers searching for a hook. The narrative's s boldness is what struck me first, as in the opening pages we are witnessing the preparation and execution of a patricide by a son who seems to harbor a searing hatred for the man who gave him birth. The reason behind the crime is one of the several mysteries in a story that moves forward in a steady, measured pacing and delivers its twists gradually until the climax that is filled with suspenseful action. Blix and Ramm collaborate once again in order to solve a case that had its roots in the past, and the setting is a small, closed-knit community brimming with buried secrets and concealed resentment.
Alexander Blix is in a terrible predicament as a result of him killing the murderer of his beloved daughter, Iselin. He now serves a 12-year sentence in a Norwegian prison and his everyday reality consists of him struggling to keep his head above the water as his past as a police officer renders him a target for the other inmates. But there is one man who turns Blix's incarceration into a nightmare: Jarl Inge Ree, a hardened criminal and fearsome convict who never misses a chance to taunt and provoke Blix. Outside the prison's walls, another potentially ominous situation unfolds: Walter Kroos, a German citizen convicted of killing his parents escapes from prison and everything seems to indicate that he is heading to Norway. Kroos and Ree are linked since they met several years earlier in the little town of Osen and Gard Fosse, Blix's ex-boss, visits Alexander in prison and asks him to befriend Ree to extract information regarding Kroos. Emma Ramm covers Walter Kroos's case and herself travels to Osen to interview the people who met him during the summer of 2004.
Blix and Ramm are in contact through telephone calls as the former is confined within the prison's walls, and they exchange information. Emma informs Blix of her findings in Osen and Alexander tells her about the progress he made with approaching Ree. A case of rape that took place in Osen seems to be the key that unlocks the mystery of why Kroos is back in Norway after all those years, and Emma soon realizes that nobody in Osen is trustworthy. I can't tell more about the plot as it would spoil a thrilling ride, the only thing that I deem worthy of mentioning is that readers won't have to wait for the finale to reveal the truth as there are many twists and turns that begin at the midpoint.
Horst's professional experience as a police officer and Enger's past as an active journalist add credibility to both the characters of Blix and Ramm respectively while their teamwork turns out to be exemplary when it comes to structuring a captivating plotline. It makes me wonder how they pulled this off, as apart from spending a vast amount of time discussing their joint venture, they also had to synchronize their narrative scope. Readers who are familiar with Horst's Wisting series and Enger's Henning Juul novels know that their style is not easy to be reconciled, so that's one more reason to congratulate them for their achievement. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart Anne Cater and Orenda Books for providing me with a chance to participate in this blog tour.