The Absent One: A Department Q Novel Hardcover – August 21, 2012
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—Publishers Weekly, (starred review)
"Adler-Olsen's humor and his portrayal of Kimmie's sad life make The Absent One stand out among today's flood of Nordic mysteries."
"The Copenhagen-set sequel to The Keeper of Lost Causes is quirky and wry."
—The Sacramento Bee
"Adler-Olsen has created a wonderful addition to the detective fiction genre...Readers of detective fiction, international crime fiction, and suspense fiction will highly enjoy this thriller."
—Library Journal (starred review)
“The pages fly by as the twisty puzzle unfolds. Stieg Larsson fans will be delighted.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Keeper of Lost Causes
“[An] absorbing psychological thriller.”
— Library Journal (starred review) on The Keeper of Lost Causes
“Comparisons [to Stieg Larsson] are inevitable and, while he may lack a Salander, Adler-Olsen’s prose is superior to Larsson’s, his tortures are less discomfiting, and he has a sense of humor.”
— Booklist (starred review) on The Keeper of Lost Causes
“Plan on putting everything else in your life on hold if you pick up this book.”
— The Oregonian on The Keeper of Lost Causes
“A relentless thrill ride of surprise, shock and terror.”
— The Sacramento Bee on The Keeper of Lost Causes
“The new ‘it’ boy of Nordic Noir.”
— The Times, London on The Keeper of Lost Causes
"The Keeper of Lost Causes is the one I'd be most eager-and most reluctant-to loan."
— The Boston Globe on The Keeper of Lost Causes
"The Keeper of Lost Causes is dark, atmospheric, and compelling. Those who loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will devour this book."
— C.J. Box
About the Author
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"Apparently they were chumps in boarding school," said Assad.
"Chums, Assad, they were chums in school."
In this second one, the group mysteriously acquires a new case when someone drops the file on Assad's desk. The team also is joined by Rose, a demanding administrator who gives Carl the kind of trouble he makes for his own bosses.
I am enjoying this series and plan to continue to read the books in sequence. Highly recommended, certainly if you liked the first, you will like this. Four stars instead of five because I found the killers to be unbelievable as characters.
A promotion into the basement
To get Carl out of the way, his bosses grabbed at an opportunity forced on them by the Danish parliament to create a new, cold case department, put him in charge, give him a promotion, and send him down to a cubbyhole in the basement. Alone. The new entity was called Department Q, just as a politician had suggested. Only when Carl continued to make life impossible for the head of the homicide department was he assigned an assistant: an egregiously cheerful man named Assad, an Iraqi immigrant with a mysterious past whom nobody else wanted to work with. In fact, it turns out, Carl’s boss only sent him down to the basement with Carl to get him off his back.
Together with Asaad, who turned out to be a surprisingly insightful detective, Carl solved the twenty-year-old disappearance of a popular, up-and-coming Danish politician. The feat was so remarkable that now, several months later, a delegation of high-ranking Norwegian police are coming to learn how he pulled it off. To help prepare for this unwelcome event, Carl is assigned a second staff person, a “secretary,” a bossy young woman named Rose who passed through the police academy with flying colors but flunked out because she couldn’t pass the driver’s test. Rose, of course, turns out to be even more difficult to work with than Carl himself.
The plot thickens
Now the file of a case from 1987 has mysteriously landed on Carl’s desk: a double homicide that the police consider solved because the confessed murderer has long been in prison. No one can explain to Carl how or why the file showed up on his desk. Since Carl is afflicted with an overwhelming desire to do the exact opposite of what he’s told to do, he insists on pursuing the case even when his boss, and his bosses’ boss, the chief of police, demand that he set it aside because it has already been solved.
A twisted tale of violence and murder in Denmark
The Absent One tells the fascinating and twisted tale of the widening investigation carried out by the dysfunctional team of Carl, Asaad, and Rose. The book is probably best characterized as a thriller, full of suspense to the end. Naturally, since this is just one in a series of novels about Department Q — the second one, actually — the trio manage to solve the case against great odds. The fun, if it can be called that, lies in the telling. However, reading this novel requires a strong stomach, because it’s full of senseless violence.
About the author
To date, Jussi Adler-Olsen has written six novels in his Department Q series. With a background as a publisher, editor, and nonfiction writer, Adler-Olsen turned to writing fiction in 1997.
This story has one character that blew me away - Kimmie. A character who, on the one hand you kind of feel revulsion for, while on the other you feel great sympathy. A deftly handled bit of writing here. Carl, Assad, Yrsa, even Vigga, Hardy and Mona are all characters that are fully fleshed out and that you feel greatly invested in and care for.
There is some non-PC racial and sexist language used, but with full self-realization, so don't take it personally. It works in long run as you read more of the series. Grumpy Carl will keep you both applauding and sometimes wanting to kick his lazy butt!
The film version of this presents the tale well, with some changes, of course. I highly recommend seeing the Department Q Trilogy first, then read these first three novels. Going back later is a nice revisit.
Top international reviews
Atmosphere and characterisation are also notable strengths of this story. Carl, Assad and Rose are three very different individuals, but who together create a formidable team. You slowly learn about their personal lives as well as their backstories that helped shape their personalities and behaviour. Likewise, the criminals are evil personified and some of their thoughts and acts are really horrific. I was particularly impressed by the way Jussi Alder-Olsen portrays, ‘Kimmie’, a key character in the story; he toys with your emotions as he slowly unveils her back story. As for atmosphere, you can easily visualise many of the locations described in the novel, be they the tiny cramped area that houses the cold case unit or the various houses, buildings, etc. where much of the action occurs.
However, as I read the story, I found myself wondering if this novel was also a thinly disguised satirical comment about policing in Denmark circa 2012 (when the book was first published). The humour is very dark and irreverent & some of the crimes quite preposterous. For example, Carl and his team exist because the local police division receives a considerable sum of money from Government to have such a department. However the local police chief wants to use the funding for other projects so to keep costs down he places Carl, Assad and Rose in a minute area within the basement of police HQ. Furthermore, the senior brass appear to do everything in their power to thwart any progress that Carl or his team make with their investigations and appear to resent his past successes. The plot is just a little too far fetched to be taken seriously (e.g having five psychopathic individuals who have known each other since their time at boarding school twenty or so years earlier; three of whom became successful business leaders and accepted members of the elite in society). Finally, by today's standards, the politically incorrect way in which Assad and Rose are portrayed and some of the dialogue that takes place between them had me cringing with shock and embarrassment.
While ‘Disgrace’ is the second novel in the series that features Carl Morck, it can easily be read as a stand-alone story. So if you enjoy crime thrillers that are atmospheric, with a remarkable cast of characters and a gripping, if somewhat gruesome plot, then I think you will like this dark, thrilling story. As for me, I have already started reading the next book in the series!
I think it is a shame because the book would have been such a good read if it had been translated professionally. As it is the poor translations makes for a stumbling read, and in some cases even incomprehensible, as the translation simply makes no sense. I Do not know if all the other books are equally poorly translated (will make sure to check the reviews before purchasing) but if they are I will certainly not bother to buy any of them.
As Carl Mørck returns from a break so he finds a file on his desk, but as soon becomes apparent, the case is supposedly solved and a person confessing to the crime is already behind bars. With his assistant Hafez el-Assad so not only do they have to find out why the file has suddenly appeared and who placed it there, but also apparently have to solve a case that is officially already solved.
Jussi Adler- Olsen thus gives us here a taut and thrilling tale where Department Q comes up against opposition from powerful people. With political levering at high levels and people obviously keeping quiet about certain crimes there is something odd going on, and Carl finds himself being threatened, as well as being ordered to drop the case. With a new secretary foisted on him he still doesn’t seem to know that much about Assad and neither do we.
Although you can read this as a standalone novel it does obviously help if you have read the first as it will make you more familiar with not only Carl and Assad but other characters in the police force. What I like here is how we have their investigation running concurrently with what their opponents are doing and flashbacks to the past. And as we soon see everyone is looking for Kirsten-Marie Lassen aka Kimmie.
Far from squeaky clean Kimmie is just as vicious as other characters here, but we see why she has become so, and so you do feel sympathy for someone who although bad isn’t quite like the others she had hung around with in the past.
In all this makes for an exciting and gripping read that certainly held me gripped, and hopefully others as well.
His books are so good that he should be on a higher pedestal, up there with the Scandinavian best, although what I suspects keeps him down is the weak humour that pervades his novels. He insists on injecting comic turns into his eclectic characters, and clearly feels improves this his books. It doesn't.
If you read this Jussi, please just write the first rate thrillers that you are capable of, and forget trying to make us all split our sides with laughter at the foolish and completely unbelievable antics of the people you write about.
The regular touches of humour lift the somewhat serious nature of the book and makes it hard to put down.