Cover Image: Helle and Death

Helle and Death

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Member Reviews

A group of friends who first me at Oxford University are invited for a reunion at a country manor. What could possibly go wrong?

I really liked the call back to the Golden Age of mysteries, and it does really well to make itself stand out from the crowd and not feel derivative. It's a fascinating character study on friendship and how the ties that bind us when we're young sadly wear away as we get older.

The mystery was intriguing and the reveal shockingly unexpected. The end played out in a similar, but different, way to the stories that this book was influenced by, which was nice. Torben, who is the de-facto main character, is hilarious and he makes a great detective.

My only criticism is that the paces slows down massively in the middle. It was a bit of a drag to get to the end but I'm glad I did as the ending was brilliant and satisfying.

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"Helle and Death" by Oskar Jensen is more Golden Age Mystery rather than Nordic Noir and a joy it was to read. Old university friends meet 10 years on for a reunion and more. Trapped due to a snow storm, they are left to their own devices and have to solve the murder of one in the house. Without trying to be over-complicated or clever, this is an enjoyable read.

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I would like to thank Netgalley and Serpent’s Tail/Viper/Profile Books for an advance copy of Helle and Death, a country house murder mystery set in the present day.

Torben Helle travels to Northumberland for a ten year reunion with his old university friends at the home of the one who has done well, Anthony Dodd. Things start to go wrong at dinner when Anthony makes a shocking revelation and discloses the contents of his will. During the night he kills himself, or does he? Snowed in with the phone lines down the friends turn on each other as Torben decides to investigate.

I enjoyed Helle and Death for the whodunnit aspect, which is clever and convoluted, but was less impressed by the literary references. Much is made of the updated golden age style of the novel with plenty of references to Christie, Sayers and even Conan Doyle, but it feels like self indulgence on the part of the author as the novel only pays lip service to the tropes of the era, nature conspiring to limit a suspect list, who all have motive, mysterious strangers and a denouement scene at the end.

None of the characters is particularly likeable and all seem caught up, not just in the past but their allotted roles in the group. Torben, whom the novel concentrates on, is an elitist snob who can’t see himself as that, although he seems more self aware by the end of the novel.

The plot, clever as it is, is as concerned with the relationship between the characters as it is about solving the mystery of Anthony’s death. It makes the novel slow going as they re litigate old grievances and uncover secrets before arriving at an answer. To be fair the ending is ingenious and has quite a few twists.

Helle and Death is a solid read. 3.5*

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I gave up part way through this book as it was so, so slow! Also there were too many pointless descriptions of things that really didn’t matter, or add to the story, and the constant changing of first person viewpoint made the reading clunky and lose its flow

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When a group of old university friends get together at one of the groups remote house in the North East of England, little did they know the drama that would unfold. In classic old-school murder mystery-style, they are soon cut of by a snowstorm that stops anyone from leaving, or coming to their aid, and then the body is found...

If you are a fan of locked room, cosy mysteries, this delivers well. Well written with good pacing, if a little slow for my liking and although a good cast of characters, some were maybe surplus and/or a bit annoying!

Recommended if you are in the mood for an easy to read and entertaining cosy mystery!

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I was fortunate to be able to listen to the audio and read Oskar Jensen's atmospheric, character driven debut that draws on classic golden age of crime tropes that is so good that it feels like historical fiction. The audio is approximately 11 hours and 30 hours long, ably narrated with clarity by Gunnar Cauthery. Art historian Torben Helle is travelling by rail to Northumberland, a 10 year reunion of a group of 8 ex-Oxford University graduates, being hosted by the wealthiest of the group, Antony, a tech entrepreneur, who has been living a reclusive life for a while. He is surprised when he is joined by 2 others on the journey, Sarah and Frances, arriving together at the old, large, remote, cold, imposing, and draughty house.

The group enjoy a beautifully cooked sumptious meal on the first evening, with Anthony giving them some shocking bad news and informs them of the £50 000 he is leaving each of them. Torben imbibes rather a lot of alcohol, waking up with an excruciating hangover, learning of their host's 'suicide' by shooting, feeling something is wrong, but unable to pinpoint exactly what for a little while. However, it soon becomes clear to him that it is murder, news that goes down like a lead balloon with other members of the group, each of whom now become suspects, making it hard to maintain their trust in each other. In the meantime, there are heavy snow blizzards, leaving them snowed in and stranded. The scene is set for us to learn of their pasts, as secrets emerge, as motives are discussed between them, filling the time with activities such as playing badminton in the large ballroom.

Jensen weaves a fun and witty murder mystery that I admit took me a little while to get into, although once I did, I really enjoyed it. It makes the perfect read for the long winter days ahead of us, it is a well plotted, twisted crime read that I can see many readers appreciating. The titular Danish Torben Helle is a skilfully drawn protagonist who easily captured my interest, with the house a character in its own right, and I loved the location. I can recommend both the book and audio. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC and ALC

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Torben Helle hails from Denmark, but many moons ago he left his country and family behind to go study in England, and there he remained. Ten years later, he's invited to a reunion with his old university friends. Naturally, the setting is a remote mansion. Of course there is a snowstorm, which means they can't leave. And unsurprisingly, there is a death during the night. I know, you're thinking "been there, done that" and that's true, but not quite like this.

'Helle & Death' is a classic locked room mystery all wrapped up in a modern jacket. And at its centre, is one the most delightful characters I've met in crime fiction. Torben is an art historian. How many times have you encountered one of those in a crime fiction story? I liked him from the second he appeared on the page. Torben is pretty straightforward in that "get what you see" kind of way. He is comfortable in his own skin, intelligent, perceptive, and extremely witty.

Honestly, the Danish glossary at the beginning of the book already had me hook, line and sinker. That was followed by a fabulous first chapter, which really sets the tone for the rest of the story. Because there are tiny clues spread out between the pages, little things you might possibly pick up on, that could help you solve this mysterious riddle. As always, nothing much is what it seems. And while I was able to figure out some of it, the bigger picture eluded me.

Obviously, the first thing to determine is if this death is a suicide or murder. This group of friends could quite possibly start to turn on one another, point fingers at each other. Especially because there is money involved. But also because it often felt like some amongst them didn't even really like the members of their wee little clique. Or the person who had the misfortune of dying. Some of the friends are hiding secrets. But what, if anything, do they have to do with this apparent suicide? Needless to say, this weekend isn't quite what they signed up for.

'Helle & Death' is wonderfully atmospheric. I find it remarkably difficult to pass up on a locked room mystery, as they're always so intriguing. But there is also often that worry that niggles in the back of your mind, wondering how many of these can possibly be written without becoming massively predictable? While the start of the story was somewhat on the slow side, giving the author the opportunity to introduce these characters, I discovered rather quickly that 'Helle & Death' was something else altogether. Mainly because of Torben, frequently because of me chuckling at something that was said, but mostly due to the absolutely exquisite writing. Admittedly, there were times where I had to re-read a (long) sentence, not quite getting it the first time. However, the writing is also what drew me in and nearly dazzled me. It feels deliciously olde worlde, in a way, and it fits like a glove with this story.

The fabulous surroundings and the diverse cast of characters captivated me from the beginning. 'Helle & Death' has a superb plot, is fabulously descriptive, hugely entertaining and probably one of the best locked room whodunnits I've read in a while. It sometimes goes much deeper than a classic mystery might do, delving into these relationships, seeing what makes these people tick. And throughout, there is this splendid Danish character I would most definitely love to see again in the future. I absolutely loved this!

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Torben Helle travels to the remote estate called Bastle House, where his group of Oxford friends gather for a long weekend. Most of them hope to reconnect, some are desperate to talk to their host, Anthony, and someone might even have more sinister motive. Because in the morning, Anthony is dead, seemingly by suicide, but Torben suspects a foul play. In the snowstorm, cut of the civilisation, old rivalries surface, friendships are tested, and secrets revealed. Helle & Death is an atmospheric whodunnit full of surprises and a homage to the genre.

A rather literary and intriguing murder mystery featuring delightful though annoying characters, Helle & Death is a book difficult to judge. Though in places too long and full of erudite discussions which do not move the plot, it is a clever and intriguing novel, which pays tribute to the known detective novels especially from the golden age of crime writing. I particularly enjoyed Torben narration, a snarky and ironic and sometimes rather confused by English customs.

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Helle and Death is an atmospheric Golden Age style mystery with a distinctly Dark Academia twist.

I really enjoyed the kind of sarcastic, jibing tone that runs throughout this book. It is very much about the facade of keeping up appearances and complex, fraught and messy relationships. This group of university housemates are entangled in various ways and caught up in the past. Now, they’re older, grown apart and brought back together in the most mysterious of circumstances. All of this works for such a classic set-up and I loved following the sleuthing. The twists and turns add a thoroughly modern gloss on the story though. On one hand, it is a painstaking love letter to the specific tropes and ideas of the classic locked room mystery - complete with isolated mansion and snow storm to boot. However, it is also quite a knowing book, well versed in those same tropes and complicating them at times.

Torben Helle is a fundamental part of this. I found his narration funny in that blunt, direct way but also the emotional side that poured through, particularly in regards to one character. He is just that bit of an outsider to the group. Some of this is self-styled and some of this is true. In particular, I enjoyed how perceptive and detailed he could be, but also how just oblivious he was at other times. It was often very much seeing the wood for the trees. This allows for Jensen to take us down some excellent rabbit holes and drive up that tension. With no escape available, all the pressure trapped in that house just builds and builds.

Helle and Death is a suspenseful, rich and snowy mystery that blends tropes of Golden Age locked room mysteries and trappings of the Dark Academia genre.

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***advance review copy received from NetGalley in return for an honest review***
Took me a moment to adjust to the author’s style, but I’m glad I stuck with it as this is a real tour de force - a fantastic example of a modern Agatha Christie, where it’s perfectly possible for the reader to figure out whodunnit - and yet, you probably won’t!
My favourite type of murder mystery - all the clues are there, but it’s tricksy enough to keep the reader guessing and second guessing right to the end.
I hope to read more from Jensen in this vein.

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Such a clever book and so addictive I just couldn’t get enough of it and was so sad when it came to an end !
So we have a remote country mansion, a snowstorm, a group of friends and then a suicide or is it or is there a murder on the premises and if so who is it. What a fantastic start to a wonderfully written book that had me laughing in parts at the brilliant character Torben but also I was desperately trying to work out exactly what was going on. The author of the book has produced and superbly crafted story and drip fed little clues on the way but I still was taken by surprise at the outcome and don’t you just love it when that happens.
For me I loved the read and I really do hope for more from Oskar Jensen in the future and if you love a fabulous mystery then this is the book for you.
My thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail / Viper / Profile Books for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Up on Goodreads now and up on my blog on 8 January:

Hi and welcome to my review of Helle and Death!

An isolated old country house in the middle of a snowstorm. As far as murder mystery settings go, this one’s a clear winner, and one I couldn’t walk away from. And I’m happy I couldn’t resist, I had a great time with Torben Helle and his friends!

Thanks to its setting, Helle and Death oozes atmosphere, and if there’s anything better than a murder mystery, surely it’s one that brims with an atmospheric moodiness. While set in the present, there’s an unmistakable historical fiction vibe to it. To the point that every time a modern-day element was mentioned, a phone, an app, Converse sneakers, I needed a moment to realign.

I would definitely call Helle and Death a character-driven slow-burner. For most of the story, the focus is more on the characters, their history together, their relationships, than on current actions. I’m not always terribly fond of that type of book, but I felt Helle and Death gets away with it easily thanks to the abovementioned atmosphere, as well as its tongue-in-cheek wittiness. It’s simultaneously meta and making fun of the meta aspect.

The mystery was also highly intriguing. Was one of the friends the culprit? Was there a third party involved? I studiously observed every little nugget of information provided about the characters, wondering what might be of importance, what innocuous detail or what trait subtly hinted at might be the thing to blow the whole case wide open. Dear reader, I didn’t quite find it. But I did have fun trying and there’s a lot to say for that.

The denouement, in the typical classic mystery style, was nothing short of a rollercoaster. As it turns out, I had been thinking along the right lines and I’m really happy I had this person pegged even if my (admittedly extremely outlandish and highly improbable) working theory did not pan out entirely. While reading, I was thinking Helle and Death was a solid four-star murder mystery, but that final 20% or so made me realise four stars weren’t enough for this clever little mystery.

I had a fantastic time with Helle and Death. It definitely offers a twist on the mystery genre and I would happily recommend it to any and all murder mystery fans.

Helle and Death is out in hardcover, digital and audio formats on 18 January 2024, with the paperback to follow in October.

Massive thanks to Viper and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

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I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.

Thanks to Netgalley, and the publishing team at Viper, Serpent’s Tail and Profile.

A classic country house murder mystery, full of wit, and great characterisation, which wears and declares its influences openly and joyfully.

It's almost 'meta', with the characters kind-of aware of what they're involved in, but is just the right side of 'reality'.

Loved Torben Helle, a great new protagonist, who's further adventures I'm really looking forward to.

Deserves to be a smash hit.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Viper Books for my approval to read and review this book.

Anthony tells his guests to not have their mobiles in his invitations, Following the discovery of their host Anthony dead in his bedroom, Torben, Ruth and Leyla set about finding out what happened, They can't leave the house due to a severe snow storm to fetch for help, A classic locked room mystery, Torben, Sara, Frances, Ruth, Wilson, Tom, Leyla and Anthony are the original 8 friends from Staircase 2 at Oxford University or are they?!. The story revolves around how they all interacted with each other or not?! I loved the great descriptions of location, people and animals, To find out the ending, you will need to read this book!!!

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Brilliant! Clever and well plotted, Helle and Death was an engrossing read. I worked out some of the clues but I got some things completely wrong. There were moment of humour too (Torben was Danish and his thoughts on the Swedes were entertaining) that lifted the atmosphere momentarily. I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters who came to life well and interacted believably I thought. And the nods to GAD fiction were a delight.

Helle and Death by Oskar Jensen is a mystery and there is a death but the novel is so much more.

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Solid 3.5 stars for this murder mystery story. A group of old college friends are invited to spend the weekend with one of their group in his luxurious (but very cold), and surprisingly tastefully furnished large home. He's averse to mobiles so they are not allowed, there's a snow storm so everybody is trapped in the house and we quickly see that everyone seems to have something to hide from everybody else. So, the perfect setting for a murder made to look like a suicide.

The book then covers the next couple of days as the group unravel their secrets and try to determine who amongst them is actually a murderer. Could it be the £50K that their host has bequeathed them all in his will that is the motive? Or revenge for a college day slight or stolen idea?

This is a well written and fun story that captures snippets from the golden age of crime writing in the 1920s and 30s without being a copy of that style. It’s original enough to enjoy reading it but not enough to blow me away.

Why then 3 instead of 4 stars? 3 stars tends to be my rating for a decently plotted and well written. To get to 4 the prose has to stand out or there has to be something in the plot that completely takes me by surprise and whilst this is far from predictable the plot/resolution just didn’t have me going “wow, I didn’t see that coming”. Having said all that I would read another book by this author.

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As soon as I saw that this novel had been praised by Janice Hallett (the incredible author of ‘The Appeal’ and ‘The Twyford Code, among others) and was recommended for fans of Agatha Christie and Richard Osman (two of my absolute faves), I knew I HAD to read it…

‘Helle & Death’ by Oskar Jensen tells the story of a group of eight university friends, some of whom have not seen each other since their shared Oxford staircase, who gather together in the remote Northumbrian home of the most “successful” of the bunch. Torben Helle, the titular character, is introduced to us as an astute professor who can find clues in historical artwork and joy in his academic endeavours, but more is revealed about his character and past throughout the tale.

Our setting: an old house with a library full of mystery novels, cold rooms and traditional decor - surrounded by heavy snowfall

Our characters: a professor, a police inspector, an academic, a retired inventor, and four other graduates in various professions

Our invitation: a weekend of reminiscing, pretentious banquets, painful memories… and death

I loved how well the characters were developed, and the fact that despite the fairly large cast each individual was memorable. I liked the clever references to fiction and the jumpy style of the narration which lurched from one perspective to another, spinning us around as readers but keeping us grounded in time. The middle of the book dragged a little for me, but the ending more than made up for that, pulling the rug out from under my feet and leaving me dizzy and amazed at the author’s trickery.

Overall, I am giving this one four stars. I concur with the blurb and really do think that fans of classic whodunnits and cosy mysteries would struggle to put this one down! The book publishes on 18 January 2024 and I hope you give it a go.

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.

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Delicious…
A reunion of old university friends turns decidedly unsettling and eventually fatal in this cleverly conceived, well crafted whodunit with a distinct Golden Age feel. The ingredients are all here in droves - a remote country house come mansion, the somewhat eccentric host, the housekeeper, a small group of soon to be potential suspects and a snowstorm. Torben Helle, our enigmatic Danish ex-pat protagonist, has his work cut out as he desperately tries to find a possible solution to a murderous puzzle - as well as a potential killer. With a pacy narrative packed with clever wordplay, engaging witticisms and a deftly drawn cast, the game begins. Delicious.

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Rounding up to 3 ✨️

This one didn't quite hit the mark for me.
Too predictable.
Characters I didnt particularly like, doing things that didn't surprise me.
It had good pacing, a nice bit of humour and a classic get up of death, country house and a group of suspects, any of which you could believe had done it.

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