Helle and Death

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Pub Date Jan 18 2024 | Archive Date Jan 17 2024

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'A glorious debut' - SUNDAY EXPRESS 'Recommended reading for a long winter night' - GUARDIAN 'A love letter to the classic country house murder mystery' J.M. HALL A snowstorm. A country house. Old friends reunited. It's going to be murder... Torben Helle - art historian, Danish expat and owner of several excellent Scandinavian jumpers - has been dragged to a remote snowbound Northumbrian mansion for a ten-year reunion with old university friends. Things start to go sideways when their host, a reclusive and irritating tech entrepreneur, makes some shocking revelations at the dinner table. And when these are followed by an apparent suicide, the group faces a test of their wits... and their trust. Snowed in and cut off, surrounded by enigmatic housekeepers and off-duty police inspectors, not to mention a peculiar last will and testament, suspicion and sarcasm quickly turn to panic. As the temperature drops and the tension mounts, Torben decides to draw upon all the tricks of Golden Age detectives past in order to solve the mystery: how much money would it take to turn one of his old friends into a murderer? But he'd better be quick, or someone else might end up dead... This witty murder mystery puts a modern spin on the classic country house whodunnit. A must-read for fans of Agatha Christie, Richard Osman and Janice Hallett. 'A solid gold revival of the golden age whodunnit, with a delicious Danish twist' JANICE HALLETT 'Wonderfully descriptive and loaded with atmosphere' IAN MOORE

'A glorious debut' - SUNDAY EXPRESS 'Recommended reading for a long winter night' - GUARDIAN 'A love letter to the classic country house murder mystery' J.M. HALL A snowstorm. A country house. Old...

Advance Praise

A clever, elegant mystery in the Golden Age tradition, though it's set in the present day. Nods to my favourite fictional sleuth of the era made it even more special - Leonora Nattrass, author of BLUE WATER

A brilliantly clever murder mystery with an alluring cast and fiendish puzzle at its heart. Perfect for fans of the country house whodunnit looking for a contemporary take on a classic tale - Philippa East, author of LITTLE WHITE LIES

As cunning as Christie, as elegant as Sayers, with a dash of Donna Tartt thrown in for good measure. Helle & Death is not only a fiendishly clever mystery on par with the best the Golden Age has to offer, but a deft character study in the complex entanglements of old friendships. Witty, erudite, funny, and wonderfully well-written, I am in awe of what Oskar Jensen has achieved with this book - William Hussey, author of KILLING JERICHO

A clever, funny, sparklingly fresh twist on classic country house murder - Kate Griffin, author of FYNESHADE

A clever, elegant mystery in the Golden Age tradition, though it's set in the present day. Nods to my favourite fictional sleuth of the era made it even more special - Leonora Nattrass, author of...

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ISBN 9781800811720
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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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'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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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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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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