Helle & Death by Oskar Jensen book review

I’m not the world’s biggest crime fan. I think I feel a little bit like once you’ve read one crime book, you’ve sort of read a lot of them. However, sometimes a crime book comes along that’s something just different enough to make it stand out for me. I think Helle & Death was just different enough to have me remember it for quite some time.

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Helle & Death was kindly sent to me by the publishers in return for an honest review.

Helle & Death tells the story of a group of friends who all meet up at a large house at the request of one of their old friends. A night of reminiscing and a huge announcement is followed by the death of one of them which leads them all to believe it could well have been a murder. What then ensues is unlike many other crime novels in this similar sort of genre.

Helle & Death plot – 4.25/5

Once the alleged murder happens, there’s a brilliant change to the way that these sort of books usually play out. I don’t want to give away too much, but unlike many other books where the rest of the cast of characters would then panic and run around like headless chickens after finding out about the potential of a killer, which is usually when I would then lose interest, in Helle & Death the group sits down calmly and actually attempts to work it out and who it could be.

I found this quite interesting at the start as it was unlike anything else I’d read in this genre before. It meant that rather than a state of panic causing me to feel like the book fell into a generic “group of people at a house with a killer” theme, it actually ended up keeping me interested.

This was helped by the fact that Jensen was keen to give a deep and well-thought-out background to all of the characters. Because Jensen spent a lot of time giving us a history of each character’s connection with each other via conversations and internal monologues from Torben Helle, our main character, it actually left me wanting to read the stories embedded here.

However, I must say, there were a couple of moments later in the novel where it felt like something more should be happening but nothing productive was actually getting done other than some pondering which just kept switching suspects.

Now, I must admit, I didn’t see the final conclusion coming and I’m still not sure, a few days later as I write this, how I feel about it. If you read the book, do let me know how you feel about it. I think Jensen does just enough to justify it.

Helle & Death characters – 4.25/5

In a book where it’s all about a group of people stuck in a house due to a major storm outside, you’ve really got to make these people worth reading about.

At the start of the book, I felt a little intimidated by the writing, and by the very well-spoken and well-educated characters but once you get into the groove of both, you’ll realise that Jensen has written characters here who have just enough depth to keep you interested.

There isn’t one standout personality in here that’s going to have you coming away gushing and there isn’t some wonderful love story to be smitten with. However, looking back, Jensen really got me into believing I was reading a book about a group of middle to upper-middle-class people in their late twenties/early thirties, some of whom had stronger relationships with some than others.

Jensen has therefore succeeded in writing good characters because he wrote believable characters.

Helle & Death final rating – 4.25/5

Helle & Death manages to feel like a classic “whodunnit” wrapped in a more contemporary story. You feel like you know what’s going to happen until twice in the book it goes you’ll find yourself being taken in a direction you didn’t see coming. Did I like the ending? I’m not sure yet. But I know I very much enjoyed the journey I had getting there. Jensen has also managed to make me feel fully intimidated by some of the characters’ intelligence in Helle & Death which is both a testament to his intelligence himself but more importantly to how well he’s written them.

Helle & Death is a modern take on the “group of friends go to a big house and one ends up killed” story that we all know of and love and I think he’s pulled it off with great success.

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