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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent addition to the genre, September 3, 2011
This review is from: The Keeper of Lost Causes: A Department Q Novel (Hardcover)
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Billed as an international bestseller, "The Keeper of Lost Causes"is the work of a Danish author who has joined his Swedish and Norwegian colleagues with a work that is quite accomplished within its genre. While it incorporates the usual components of Scandinavian crime fiction, including an irascible divorced detective with a past who marches to his own drummer, it is distinguished by the fact that for once the victim in the drama isn't actually dead, even though she disappeared five years before the bulk of the story is set. That alone is a refreshing twist, although her captors subject her to such degrading treatment that I started to dread the chapters where she appears. (I guess that's a measure of Adler-Olsen's skill as a writer--he's able to elicit unease without going over the top.)

Carl Morck was a brilliant but problematic detective before he and two close colleagues were caught in an ambush; one was killed and the other left a quadriplegic. Physically, Morck escaped with little more than grazing by a bullet, but he is struggling with guilt, a certain amount of PTSD and a complicated private life. When he comes back to work, he is assigned to the newly created Department Q, focused on cold cases, which to his superiors amounts to getting him out of their way while enabling them to seize the funding that has been allocated for the department. Naturally, he continuously outsmarts them, often with the help of his assistant, the Syrian refugee Assad, who has his own checkered and mysterious past. Morck is given a stack of 40 or so cases and through sheer happenstance starts with the disappearance of a controversial but (naturally) attractive politician, Merete Lynggard, who vanished off a ferry to Berlin. The only witness was her brain-damaged brother, who is unable to speak. Adler-Olsen keeps things interesting by introducing a number of related subplots and characters: a stepson and tenant who live with Morck, his relationship with his paralyzed colleague, a predatory and unscrupulous journalist, another murder case that Morck's former colleagues are bungling, an accident that took the lives of Lynggard's parents and injured her brother, etc. Naturally, in the end all the loose ends are tied up, with plenty of missteps, dead ends and suspense and a surprising amount of humor, which is most welcome in a genre that is known for often being grim. The relationship between Morck and Assad is especially entertaining and provides yet another glimpse at the tensions between Scandinavian natives and recent immigrants--a recurring theme in a number of books in the field.

In all, this is a satisfying book, with a few awkward bits of dialogue sprinkled throughout--perhaps the result of the translation--and a few stretches that move a bit slowly, IMO. While I don't know that I agree with the German reviewer who declared Adler-Olsen as good as Stieg Larsson (or, for that matter, Henning Mankell, my favorite), "The Keeper of Lost Causes" is a first-rate effort and certainly worth reading for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 6, 2013 3:17:00 AM PDT
Marion says:
Enjoyed your review, Daffy.But like you,I believe Mankell is the master.
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