Friday, March 15, 2013

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

After the incident which puts a bullet in Detective Sergeant Carl Morck’s head and leaves one of his partners dead, the other paralyzed, Morck’s a changed man. He’s darker, more cynical, and can’t be bothered to pretend to care about anything. He used to be a good detective—now he’s just a guy who didn’t pull his weapon in time.

He’s also a guy who’s just been handed his own department, albeit a one-man, basement-office, cold case department. Being sidelined doesn’t bother him, he’s ready to put his feet up and stew in his own juices, but his new assistant, Assad, shames him into actually looking at the cold case files. Assad, a Syrian refugee with a mysterious past and an eagerness for policework, impels Carl to focus on Merete Lynggaard, a young and idealistic politician who disappeared off of a ferry more than five years ago and was presumed drowned.

When Carl’s half-hearted efforts to retrace the original investigation immediately turn up irregularities, the case develops an irresistable momentum of its own, leading Carl and Assad into danger, and redemption.

The narration flips back and forth from Merete in the past and Carl and Assad in the present, and the contrast between her situation and their investigation creates so much tension it’s impossible to put down. The careful layout of each piece of the puzzle is set up so that in the end, everything falls together perfectly without being too predictable.

Amazing book. The audio version had me so enthralled I was making up extra errands and chores as an excuse to keep my headphones on. This is a mystery in the popular “Nordic Noir” subgenre, which includes  Scandinavian crime writers like Steig Larssen, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbo. Nesbo is my favorite of those three, and Adler-Olsen is as skillful and enjoyable as Nesbo.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first book in Jussi (YOU-see) Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series, followed by The Absent One, and the upcoming May release A Conspiracy of Faith.

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