There’s seemingly much to like about Inborn, Thomas Enger’s latest tome. Set in Friedheim, a small village in Norway, where everyone pretty much knows each other’s business, it opens with the deaths of teens Mari Lindgren and Johannes Eklund. As suspicion falls on Even, Mari’s recently axed boyfriend, he finds himself  judged on social media, and tried by people he’s known his whole life, all while he endeavours to uncover what led to the murders, and his role, if any, in them. An interesting story and one that has that particular stillness that a lot of Scandi crime has.

I was thinking about what it is that makes this subgenre so enticing. Is it a special darkness, a sombreness, a chill that has something to do with the landscape and climate of the region? Is it a particular tone or view of the world that Scandi writers have? Or something else altogether? I don’t have a definitive answer. I just know that for quite some time, increasing numbers of very fine writers from Scandinavia have been penning some very fine books, indeed. And Enger’s reputation precedes him.

The wonderful thing about exposure to the wide array of novels being published is that some are mind-blowingly brilliant and others, invariably, seem less so. Even among the titles written by my Old Familiars, the authors whose books I go back to, time and time again, there are works that I like less than others and, sometimes, I couldn’t tell you why.

In this case, Inborn, my first foray into Enger’s literary landscape, ticks so many boxes. It has a strong storyline; the hinterland is well defined, the author setting his scene well; and many of the inhabitants are clearly etched. And yet while Enger’s writing is undeniably good and the dialogue, for the most part, authentic, I wasn’t clear at whom the book was aimed. At times, it seemed sophisticated; at others a little too young for modern crime-fiction adult audiences – and that’s not because the protagonist is a seventeen-year-old. The ‘now’ and ‘then’ sections, at times, felt a little disjointed and when I began to ponder what the cover image meant and whether the red text on black on the spine was legible enough, that’s when I knew my imagination wasn’t completely engaged.

As readers, our views on particular books are personal, influenced by our mores, our sensibilities, our feelings when we’re reading, even what happened in our days, and just because Inborn didn’t totally resonate with me, that doesn’t mean it won’t with you. So read it, please, and see.




Inborn | Thomas Enger | Orenda Books | 7 March 2019 | paperback | £8.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour organised by Anne Cater, of Random Things Tours, to whom we extend our thanks. Many thanks also to the publisher for supplying a review copy of the book and the jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.





Also of interest: The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.