For those of us who tore through Stieg Larsson and then Jo Nesbo, the desire for another Scandinavian crime novel writer to follow has been acute. I like what I have found so far with Jussi Adler-Olsen.
The Absent One is the second book in Adler-Olsen’s “Department Q” series featuring Copenhagen Deputy Detective Superintendent Carl Mørck. Carl heads a very small subunit in Homicide called Department Q, which was established to take a second look at cold cases. I didn’t read the first book in the series, but that unfortunate oversight on my part did not create a problem for me.
As the story opens, Department Q is given a file detailing some grisly murders from 1987. The crimes committed that are the focus of this investigation are way over the top, as are the outrageously depraved characters who commit them. (We are told right at the beginning who they are and what they have done, so there are no spoilers involved in discussing them.) I almost didn’t keep reading because of the absurdity (or at least, I hope, the absurdity) of these evil characters.
But Detective Mørck was appealing to me immediately, as was his most humorous sidekick Assad and the new department assistant Rose Knudsen.
The focus of the story weaves back and forth between the gang of killers and the members of Department Q. By this process we get to know both groups. I should warn potential readers that one manifestation of the degeneracy of the villains involves cruelty to animals. If you are familiar with Flaubert’s short story, “The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier,” the perpetrators may remind you of Saint Julian (prior to his repentance, that is).
Tension builds as Department Q gets closer to exposing these miscreants, and they in turn get closer to making sure the members of Department Q aren’t able to expose anything or anyone ever again.
Discussion: I have to say I have rarely come across a more unlikely scenario, i.e., a non-dystopian society having in its top echelon a number of very, very sick people who are also rich and powerful movers and shakers. Surely in “real life” someone on their staffs would talk? Even given the greed that seems ubiquitous in this story, a tabloid newspaper or magazine would undoubtedly satisfy someone’s need for a payout. And could you even be so successful if you were so totally psycho? Well, I’m hoping it’s an unrealistic scenario! Nevertheless, it was a fast-paced, entertaining read.
Evaluation: I really enjoyed getting to know Carl Mørck and his colleagues. The humor associated with this motley crew provided a nice break from the violence and tension-filled activities of the bad guys. I’ll be seeking out the next book in the series for sure!
Note: Jim also enjoyed this one and like me, is happy to have discovered this series.
Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012