Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 February 2019 from Orenda Books
What turns a boy into a killer?
When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?
Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has a relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?
It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.
But can we trust him?
A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families? How well do we know ourselves?
I love Thomas Enger’s writing. Incisive, sharp, observant and full of humanity, he never fails to capture my attention and once he has it, I am putty in his writing hands.
From his descriptive prose “He looked like he’d been desperately saving up for a beard, but could only afford a few tufts” to his sensitive and empathetic character driven narratives and his ability to drop little plot points in without you noticing, until suddenly you’re wondering how you missed the shocking reveal, this is a writer of consequence.
Chief Inspector Yngeve Mork is called in when, after the premiere of Fredheim High School’s annual theatrical production, a murder is discovered. Johannes Eklund was feeling the rush from a hugely successful performance as the school’s most talented musician, when he was brutally murdered. Called in by the caretaker, Chief Inspector Yngve Mork, himself recovering from the recent death of his wife, discovers a second body. Mari Lindgren was only 16 when she died and had recently broken up with her boyfriend, 17 year old Even Tollefsen.
In a dramatic prologue, Enger lays out the details of Eklund’s demise. Then in the first chapter the narrative switches to Even Tollefsen, in the courtroom, giving testimony. It is Even who will be our touchstone; the narrator whose testimony will enable us to learn about the community of Fredheim, its inhabitants and chief amongst them, his friends and family.
Balanced against Even’s naive world view is Chief Inspector Mork, whose painstaking investigation provides a stable balance to the finger pointing and rumours that almost immediately begin to circulate. Fredheim may be in mourning, but there are those who will not wait for justice to be done; who prefer to rush to judgement, irrespective of evidence. Even is caught in the centre of this maelstrom as he realises that his friends are taking to social media, eager to judge him.
Enger’s character studies are detailed for of each and every one of his characters in Fredheim. These are beautifully rich vignettes which help to underline attitudes, backgrounds and relationships until you feel you know these people intimately.
Enger gently peers under the surface of this close knit community to expose the secrets, lies and cover-ups that form part of any society. Inborn is a novel that examines societal behaviour by taking a big issue and setting it in small town life. He shows us humanity in all its forms; makes us laugh and cry, creates characters who can at once be divisive and healing and shows us how easily the innocent can be seduced in to the dark side.
There are well formed character studies for each character in the book. These are beautifully rich vignettes which help to underline attitudes, backgrounds and relationships until you can almost see this town, nestling on its own, engrossed in their own world. Moving effortlessly between present and past, the narrative arc allows the full story to unfold and as it begins to do so, the reader can feel the tension rising.
In Even, Enger creates a character the reader instinctively wants to like and protect; a boy on the brink of manhood who understands so little and yet instinctively needs to find answers. By creating a climate of fear and suspicion, Enger makes us look at each character as a potential suspect, giving us a reason for suspicion and then cleverly moving us away until our heads are reeling with the misdirection.
As each character comes under the spotlight the reader will question what they know and look back again, questioning, at the testimony they have heard. At the end, when we know the story, it is both heart breaking and surprising.
I loved this book for its empathy, its intelligence and its capacity to move and engage my emotions.
Verdict: Inborn is an intelligent, tense and emotive thriller with characters you care about and an end you won’t see coming.
Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication and marked the first in the bestselling Henning Juul series.
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, upon which Inborn is based, was published in Norway in 2017 and won the same prestigious prize.
Most recently, Thomas has co-written a thriller with Jørn Lier Horst. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.