Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Keeper Of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper Of Lost Causes
A Department Q Novel
Jussi Adler-Olsen


Detective Carl Mørck is back on the job after a shooting that left one of his colleagues dead, one permanently paralyzed, and himself wounded.  The fact that he is the only one of the three to emerge whole and healed weighs heavily on Carl, even as it makes him a target for the press.  When he returns to work, his boss informs him that he’ll be the head of the newly-formed Department Q, which will, in effect, investigate cold cases.  He’ll also be the only detective in his department.  He asks for, and receives, an assistant.  Assad appears to basically be a janitor, but also demonstrates an interest in police work.

The shooting incident has left Carl deeply ambivalent about live in general and his job in particular.  He really wants nothing more than to mark time and drink coffee until he retires.  With a bit of prodding from Assad, Carl begins an almost indifferent investigation into the disappearance of politician Merete Lynggaard.  She disappeared from a ferry five years ago, leaving behind her mentally-disabled brother, Uffe.  First investigators decided that Merete went over the side of the ferry, either for her own reasons or as the result of an accident.  Carl doesn’t see much to the case, but there are things that don’t quite fit into any logical explanation, leading Carl deeper and deeper into Merete’s life and past.

If you haven’t yet discovered what is now a sub-genre of mysteries – Nordic mysteries – now is the time to get on board.  The culture and customs may be different, but it’s a truism that police forces the world over are over-worked and under-funded.  The ways that investigators get around these limitations (or don’t) are probably quite similar, too.  Carl is not just some quiet, sad, Dane.  He’s a real person with a background, family, friends, and work history.  The addition of Assad, who brings his Middle Eastern food and sensibility into the basement, along with his not-so-great Danish, is a great choice.  Assad is almost as much an outsider as Carl, and this forms an unlikely and grudging (on Carl’s side) friendship.

There’s a subplot involving a murder being investigated by the general homicide squad that draws a clear distinction between Carl and the other detectives.  His visits to his now-paralyzed friend, whose mind is still clear as a bell, are heartbreaking.  Anyone would feel survivor’s guilt in this situation.  The case of Merete’s disappearance unfolds one tiny detail at a time, with leads and setbacks in almost equal measure.  The author skillfully pulls things together for the reader when Carl mentally summarizes details uncovered so far and plans his next move.  This is a book that I found unique and very difficult to put down; and when I picked it up again, I was instantly transported right back into the story.  I was sorry to see it end, and hope to spend much more time with Carl and Department Q.

Rating: 9
August 2012
ISBN# 978-0-452-29790-6 (trade paperback)


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