Member Reviews

#HelleAndDeath by #OskarJensen begins with humourous and delightful characters, however, at the 35% mark, it starts to feel rather flat. It was a difficult slog to reach the finish. There is a great amount to praise within this book but for me, they're buried under a lot of what is, essentially, unnecessary.

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If you like a "cosy" mystery with a character driven plot then this is for you. It's the usual house party while there they get snowed in and the shenanigan's begin. With plenty of red herrings and twists and turns, I was certainly kept guessing for a considerable time until the reveal which was a total surprise to me although perhaps shouldn't have been. It did get a little slow at times but I powered through due to all the 5 star reviews and while glad I did I can't score it that highly 3.5 stars round up. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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A group of old university friends are invited to a weekend party in a remote Northumbrian country Manor House. Following the revelation of some surprise shocking news at dinner, a body is discovered the following morning. Cue a huge northern snowstorm, dwindling supplies and the possibility of a murderer amongst their number, and Torben Helle, art historian, finds himself delving into an investigation. With each of them harbouring enough secret reasons to be a motive for murder, no one can be truly trusted. With plenty of red herrings and twists and turns, I was certainly kept guessing for a considerable time until the big reveal when the pieces started to fall into place.
This story will definitely appeal to fans of a good old fashioned Murder Mystery!
With thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail, Viper Books for an advanced copy of this audiobook in exchange for a review.

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This is a very enjoyable and entertaining country house "cosy" mystery to read by the fire on a cold winter night. Old university friends gathered in an isolated country house doesn't sound like anything new but I was completely hooked from the Danish glossary on the very first page. It sets the tone and lets you know it is going to be an original and funny read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Serpent's Tail / Viper / Profile Books for an advanced copy in exchange for my review.

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The eight "friends" who attend this reunion are all very different characters and other than sharing living quarters at university it is difficult to imagine a way they would all come to be in one space.
Waking on the first morning to find their party of 8 has now become a party of 7, they start trying to figure out what has happened, who, if anyone, had reason to cause this death and had the opportunity also!
Learning about all their grievances with the recently deceased makes everyone a suspect and I have to admit, the ending was a rather glorious one which made me feel better about all I had read through between these people.

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Torben Helle joins old friends, Frances, Sara, Ruth, Leyla, Wilson, & Tom at the home of Anthony Dodd. Anthony was also one of the friend group at university but he made it big in tech & the house is suitably impressive. There's a strange atmosphere amongst the group from the start, but things take a shocking turn when one of them is found dead the next morning. Suicide or murder? Torben thinks the latter & alongside Ruth (who is a police officer) & Leyla, he tries to work out who would have a motive to kill. As the weather has taken a turn for the worse & the group are isolated from the outside world by snow, Torben views this as an opportunity to try & work out who would have a motive to kill, but an isolated group could also be an opportunity for the killer.

This is one of those books where the reader gets points of view from all the characters over the course of the plotline - with Torben being the main one. Personally I found this book a little underwhelming as there was a lot of meandering talk between Torben & his fellow investigators, Ruth & Leyla. The others, understandably feeling under unfair suspicion, were a little more standoffish. None of the characters really stood out as distinct though, & the LGBTQ+ relationship just felt a bit tacked on with absolutely no chemistry between the characters. Overall I felt it was a bit of a miss. 3.5 stars (rounded down).

My thanks to NetGalley & publishers, Serpent's Tail/Viper/Profile Books, for the opportunity to read an ARC.

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Please say this isn't the last we hear from Torben Helle. He is a cracking character and I really do feel he has more to give...
But I am getting ahead of myself... We first meet him as he is travelling to a remote snowbound Northumbrian Mansion to attend a 10 year reunion with friends he made at University. The host being Antony, a tech guru, who sold his company for squillions and is now living as a bit of a recluse. Torben meets up with two of the other guests on the train and together the trio continue on to the rather imposing house.
That evening, as they reminisce, Antony also imparts some bad news of his own. He also informs the group that he is leaving each of them £50k in his will. They continue drinking well into the wee hours. Shocked by the revelations... Next morning Torben feels the excesses quite badly but that feeling, bad as it is, is nothing to how he feels when he finds out that Antony has taken his own life. But, and it'd be a short and boring story if there wasn't a but, Torben is not convinced by the scene before him. Things do not add up. He believes that Antony was murdered...
And so begins a bunch of delving into their pasts. With the staff off site overnight, it looks like one of Torben's friends could be responsible. Heck, even he could be, as he was more than drunk the night before and can't quite remember what he did. With the setting remote and now cut off from the outside world it does indeed fall to Torben to try and piece together exactly what happened...
I loved this book. Even though it start off the same old with the reunion and the remote and the cut off tropes. What it develops into is a cracking oldie worldie murder mystery. One that had be flummoxed all the way through. And Torben, what a cracking character he is. Flawed and vulnerable but also intelligent and human. Please say we'll see more of him...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

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Torben Helle, Danish academic, left home behind a long time ago and essentially remade his life in England. He made some friends during his University life and now they've finally enticed him to attend a reunion of sorts. One of the group has made a lot of money and has offered his remote mansion for the reunion. Typically, there is a snowstorm just after they arrive - cutting them off from civilisation.

When their host is found dead the following morning the classic locked room mystery would appear to have begun. But this modern take of the isolated mansion/locked room mystery has plenty twists in store. Before the end of the story there will be lots of secrets revealed, friendships frayed, relationships declared and old jealousies uncovered.

Torben is a breath of fresh air. He accepts himself for what he is and his intelligence is more than apparent. He's not so much a show off and more that he just says it is as it is. His perceptions are spot on and his self-doubts help to see him as a "real" person.

There is a Danish Vocabulary included at the start of the book but it's really all idiom and insults that are sprinkled through the book and my brain just kind of automatically selected what word it should be, LOL!

Intense and atmospheric. I love a murder mystery and this was a great modern adaptation. It was a wee tad slow to start with but that actually helped with cementing all the characters into place in my head. The relationships between the characters are really well crafted and I felt they were all necessary to the overarching storyline.

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Helle and Death has all the elements I love in a locked room mystery: a gaggle of old friends coming back together; scores to settle or grievances to put to bed; long-burning love interests ; a stunning remote location; murderous opportunities and motives a-plenty.

This debut novel from Oskar Cox Jensen is an impressive addition to the crime thriller world. The characters are all old university friends , brought together by Anthony, one of their group who has achieved huge success. They formed a friendship group 10 years previously, and since university have all gone their various ways, some achieving more than others, all of them assessing their own comparative statuses and not showing the others how they may be struggling.

When the friends arrive at the remote house where phones are banned from use, Anthony has a sombre announcement to make, which is swiftly followed by a monumentally boozy evening. Home truths are shared, secrets come out, emotions are heightened .
The hangovers the next morning aren’t helped by the discovery of Anthony’s body. Finding themselves snowed in, the friends have to work out what has happened, and if he was killed, who else might be at risk and from whom? Suspicions dart across the entire group, as old and new memories resurface, seen in a new light.

The plot is so tightly woven, with clues scattered throughout if you know where to look. I was hooked from the outset, the writing is gripping and propulsive.

I loved the overt references to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and other detective writers from the Golden Age. The characters in ‘Helle and Death’ refer to them and their detective methods in a wonderfully natural way which added extra depth to the story.
The character list is the ideal size for a murder mystery as well; you could keep track of who had history with who, but there were enough characters to keep the plot interesting as well.
Bonus points for the Martine Mccutcheon reference too!

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Thank you to NetGalley and Serpent's Tail / Viper / Profile Books for a digital review copy of "Helle & Death" in exchange for my honest and voluntary review.

Helle & Death is a fantastic modern homage to golden age detective fiction, especially the classic isolated country-house setting and all with a little touch of nordic noir. It's a locked room mystery that overcomes the issues the modern age brings (mobile phones, cameras etc) and is a good fun read the whole way through.

The story focuses on the reunion of a group of Oxford friends, all brought together to the North-East during the winter at the behest of one of the group - Anthony Dodd who has news to impart to them all. Unfortunately his untimely death and heavy snowstorm put paid to a weekend of fun and instead turns the focus inward as the group looks inwardly to try and figure out whodunnit and why.

I enjoyed this take on the locked room, country house mystery, especially after the first third when the action ramped up and the group started detecting. From minute one I did have my suspicions about the resolution and was correct but didn't guess the why, which did fall a little flat, but I enjoyed the twists and turns along the way as well as the meta referencing to classic mystery fiction of the 30s and 40s.

The assembled group were generally inoffensive but I felt that for the most part I didn't really get to know them too well and most of them ended up as personality cyphers rather than being fully fleshed out. Our main character though, Torben Helle, was a fun character to get to know a little more and I appreciated the nordic detective touches that he brought to the story.

Overall anyone who likes a classic mystery, an isolated setting and a locked room will enjoy this addition to the genre - think And Then There Were None with a dash of The Secret History. It doesn't re-invent the wheel but it's a fun time and the affection for golden age detective fiction shines through and works really well.

Helle & Death is released January 18th 2024.

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Really great cosy mystery. I hadn’t realised when I requested the novel that it was set now I assumed it was set in the 30’s or 50’s. It was really interesting well written story and I didn’t guess the ending at all.. Would totally recommend. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me access to an early copy of this book.

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'And Then There Were None' meets the Dark Academia of 'The Secret History'.

Dr. Helle - our Danish protagonist, is surprised to recieve an invitation from an old university friend, inviting him to stay for the weekend in the middle of Scottish nowhere with all his old Oxford university friends. But what's the reason for this impromptu gathering? A reunion? A chance to catch up after 10 years? A chance for Anthony Dodd to show off how well hes done for himself? Or someting else?

Turns out Anthony Dodd has a reason for gathering all his friends together. He has some news to impart to them...however his sudden death overnight, combined with an untimely snowstorm which traps the group together in the house alone with no mobile phones and no electricity creates a bit of a problem. Is one of them a murderer or did he commit suicide? Secrets surface, hidden for 10 years. - did any of them really know each other any more? Did they ever? Trapped in an old house miles from anywhere - even the housekeeper. Snowed in. Their mobile phones confiscated by the housekeeper at the request of Anthony when they arrived. The landlines down. The electricity failing. A dead body upstairs in one of the bedrooms. The group begin to dissect each other, digging into the past to try and solve the question of whether this is a simple suicide or is one of them a murderer?

An interesting take on the locked in a house murder mystery, with all the atmospheric conditions of a blizzard thrown in, secrets, dark pasts, academic inferiority complexes and a group of people who are deeply distrustful of each other while masking as friends.

A great read. 5 stars.

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It's hard to create a proper Golden Age-style locked-room murder mystery in the present day because the presence of the internet, cameras and mobile phones make us too connected to be truly isolated. However, Helle and Death by Oskar Jensen has created a true "mansion cut off in the snow" story which works really well, despite being firmly in the modern era.

Torben Helle is an engaging protagonist, forever swearing in Danish, so I enjoyed spending time in his company.

A solid four stars from me.

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Jensen's "Helle and Death" is a brilliant homage to golden age detective fiction, and particularly the closed-off country-house setting. The characters were morally greyed and rounded well-enough to cast suspicion without being unlikable. While giving a nod to the old greats, and Christie is definitely evoked, the ingenious plotting gave the familiar narrative pattern a fresh and captivating feel. Coupled with a stupendous pace and style, making it absolutely unputdownable, this novel is definitely not be missed for fans of the genre.

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My thanks to Serpent's Tail and Netgalley for the ARC of this cosy murder mystery, it was the perfect holiday read. Whilst my own situation was more rain storm than snow, it helped to feel as isolated as the characters - albeit not in such a fancy house, but without a potential murderer on the prowl.
Jensen doesn't re-invent the wheel here (more of a 3.5 than a 4, tbh), but I've read far worse takes on the cosy country house murder. There are the usual secrets that bubble slowly to the surface, adding to the investigation, reasonably well-drawn characters, and a nice few red herrings (being Danish, of course).
I did have a bit of an issue with the ending, because I couldn't see how certain people were so objectionable, but nevertheless, this was a very entertaining read, and I'd risk another book from this author.
You really can't have enough murder mysteries!

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A novel that is wonderfully heavy in description, meet Torben Helle. The art historian and Danish expat is on his way to a 10-year reunion with former university friends. Of course, it’s within a snowbound Northumbrian mansion, where there’s not a lot around, and where the host is a noted recluse. As the old friends sit for dinner, the host has got quite a bit to say… before there’s a death and the remaining guests must figure it all out. For Torben, that means thinking about the Golden Age detectives and how they’d solve the possible crime. It feels like a heartwarming blend of classic whodunnit with a modern spin. Not just that, its wit is peppered throughout. One that will make you smile at points, as you’re also trying to find out what really happened.

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A fantastic debut murder mystery. Loved the Danish links and Torben is definitely one to watch - I hope for more Torben tales though even if it didn’t become a series , it’s still an atmospheric drama and I wish I could read it again but with different eyes.
A brilliant consistent five stars 🌟 #Netgalley #HelleAndDeath

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A fun addition to the country house mystery genre. Knowing nods to past authors, well-known books and adaptations. Enjoyed the snowbound secluded location, interesting reveal of the whodunit & whydunit, and liked Torben as the lead.

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This was a nice change on a golden age thriller! Danish links, a Northumberland setting and a snowstorm keeping everyone trapped in an old house. What's not to love? Strange things going on and twists a plenty. A lot of fun and I enjoyed this!

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This book had everything you need in a murder mystery. A remote, large, old snowbound Northumbrian mansion, a ten-year reunion with old university friends, past relationships and a host who is seemingly wealthy.

I enjoyed the start of the book and the twisty ending but the middle was very slow with lots of descriptions which I didn't really need?

As for expressions like 'Scandi-noir' and 'Nordic tales', I can do without. Yes, the main character is Danish with dodgy jumpers but that was all. Lots to love in the book as it is a classic 'whodunnit', and kept me guessing to the very end.

Thanks to Net Galley and Serpents ale/Viper for the chance to read and review.

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