Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Keeper of Lost Causes: Jussi Adler-Olsen


Carl Mørck has returned to work as a homicide detective in Copenhagen, after being on leave following his last case, which ended badly, leaving him nearly dead. Another policeman was killed and the third was left paralyzed. Mørck feels guilty and responsible, has lost his  edge, and is not keeping up with his work. Not only that, but he is not well-liked in his department. He is a very capable detective, but he alienates other detectives in his department, seeing their work as shoddy and letting them know it. Thus, his boss plots to put him in charge of a new department to follow up on high profile cold cases and funnel the majority of the funds for the new department to shore up the main Homicide area.

Carl's office for the new Department Q is located in the basement and has few amenities. He gets an assistant, Assad, a Syrian immigrant, who is really supposed to clean and organize but ends up being an asset to the tiny department. Carl doesn't much care where he works, and initially gets little real work done.

Soon his boss has to show results for the new department, so he pushes Carl to name a case he is currently working on. By chance, he and Assad start looking into the case of Merete Lynggaard, a rising politician who went missing during a ferry crossing and is assumed dead. Her handicapped younger brother, Ulle, was initially charged with her murder but the charges were dropped.

I found this to be a very compelling mystery. I enjoyed every part of the story. The narrative goes back and forth between Mørck's present life and the current investigation, Merete's story, starting 5 years earlier, and the disastrous incident which led to Mørck's change in responsibilities. I will point out, for those who love puzzles, this is not really that type of mystery. It is pretty easy to figure out, and the story is more about following the process of the investigation.

Many of the secondary characters, more than I can mention here, are very well-developed. The protagonist has an unusual living arrangement, with an almost ex-wife living nearby, her teenage son living with Mørck, and a tenant who cooks and cleans. Assad, the assistant, is a fantastic character. Carl is very much a flawed detective, but with all the other interesting threads going on in his life, I can forgive that.


Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish author of crime fiction novels. This was the first book in the Department Q series, and was published in the UK as Mercy. I intend to continue this series.

Other reviews...



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Publisher:   Dutton, 2011 (orig. pub. 2007)
Translated by Lisa Hartford.
Length:      395 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Department Q #1
Setting:      Denmark
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     I purchased this book in 2013.

15 comments:

  1. Hope you enjoy the later vols in the series, Tracy!

    And thanks for the shoutout.

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    1. I am sure I will enjoy later books in the series, John, but I will have to wait until I read some of my massive backlog first. I always enjoy your thoughts on books and authors.

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  2. This really is a fine novel, isn't it, Tracy? Among the things I enjoyed about it was the effective blend/balance of the personal and professional. We learn about Mørck's home life, but it doesn't overwhelm the case. I think you'll like the other novels in the series, especially the dynamics among the Department Q members.

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    1. I thought I remembered that you liked this series, Margot. I look forward to more books in the series, I think Morck is an interesting character and I want more Assad.

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  3. I haven't read anything by this author, but I've just reserved Mercy at the library - which I'm supposed to be avoiding! Thanks - I think.

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    1. I hope you like Mercy, Katrina. I do remember you saying recently that you were staying away from the library (or trying to). I think you have better control of your TBR books than I do, though.

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  4. Overwhelmed at moment, but maybe someday.

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    1. I wish I could keep my eye from wandering to books I don't already have, Rick. I need to pare down my TBR pile a lot. I will be working on that in 2020.

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  5. I love the novel's premise and your take on it, Tracy. I had not known of this series, but I'm definitely going to check it out!

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    1. I just now downloaded #2. Thanks for introducing me to the series!

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    2. I hope you enjoy the book, Mathew. The first book was very appealing.

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  6. TracyK: I thought the book was brilliant especially in the creation of Assad. What a character.

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    1. Assad was definitely my favorite character, Bill. I am happy to find a series set in Denmark that I really like. Sometimes Scandinavian books are too dry or dark for my taste. Although I do pretty well with Iceland.

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  7. Another one that sits on the pile. I don't think I've read anything Scandi this year.

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    1. I have read a few others from that area this year, Col, and I think I have liked all of them.

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