This eighth installment of the adventures of Department Q, the cold case division in Copenhagen’s police homicide department, focuses on the background of Assad, one of three assistants of Carl Mørck, who is the head (in name, at least) of Department Q.
The story begins somewhat slowly, with freelance reporter Joan Aiguader attempting to resuscitate his less than stellar career by reporting on the bodies of refugees washing up on the shores of Barcelona. Joan does a feature on Victim 2117, only to learn, to his chagrin, that this woman was not in fact a refugee but a murder victim.
Back in Copenhagen, Assad nearly has a breakdown when he recognizes the woman identified only as Victim 2117 as well as the people standing around on the shore by the body. It turns out the victim was someone very close to him, and the rest are none other than his own (heretofore never mentioned) family in the company of his sworn enemy, the terrorist Ghaalib, whom Assad had encountered in Iraq. After Assad tells his story to Carl, Rose, and Gordon, it is clear that Ghaalib has staged the news story to draw Assad out of hiding and finally get his revenge.
Carl joins Assad to Germany to follow the trail of his family. In the meantime, Rose and Gordon have to deal with a psychopath who keeps calling them to apprise them he plans to go on a killing spree as soon as he achieves the 2117th victory in his online game.
The two storylines continue to coalesce in unexpected ways. Each calls for a contest of wits between the good guys and the bad guys, with the bad guys having the advantage that they have no moral compasses and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The dénouement is full of tension and carnage.
Carl, now 53, finally shows his mettle in this installment, with, as usual, a great deal of help from his intrepid staff. It is never clear, however, if all of them will survive, and what the outcome will be of the new shock in Carl’s personal life.
Discussion: I had trouble at the beginning of the book; Assad’s background was quite complicated, and I wasn’t sure where the story was going. By the halfway point, however, I was fully invested in the plot, and the level of suspense was so high I was whipping through the pages.
Evaluation: I am a big fan of the Detective Carl Mørck series. While some might find the behaviors of the “bad guys” over the top, one only has to read the papers to see all of it is sadly not out of the realm of possibility. I look forward, as always, to more from Department Q.
Published in the U.S. by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2020