Friday, May 6, 2011

The Keeper of Lost Causes – Review

I was browsing Net Galley and really liked the sound of Jussi Adler-Olsen new mystery (expected release date, August 2011). Although the overview says that Copenhagen detective Carl MØrck is "deeply flawed" I didn't find him as such. He's a gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone cop who was recently nearly killed in an incident that took the life of one partner and severely injured another. MØrck questions himself as to whether he could have done something differently to avert the mayhem. No flaw there. In fact, this rough-and tumble- guy is really quite compassionate: he makes regular hospital visits to his debilitated colleague; his stepson (from a marriage gone bust but not officially over) lives with him; he even tolerates the odd requests that his I-don't-want-a-divorce wife puts on him.

But the recent near-death experience has put him into a deep funk. Unfortunately, he was never a favorite of some of the detective squad and his depressed, moody attitude makes him more of a thorn in their side. To get him out of their way, and to increase the main department budget, they put MØrck in charge of the newly-developed Department Q--a Cold Case department--expecting he will do nothing.

After sitting around contemplating the inside of his eyelids, he is motivated first by the economics involved in his "promotion" and second by his unique and highly-energetic new assistant. He soon finds himself following up on a five-year-old case of a politician gone missing. Was she murdered, kidnapped, victim of an accident, or did she commit suicide? The body of Merete Lynggaard was never found.

This is the first of a new series for Jussi Adler-Olsen and the presentation of the probable ongoing characters is nicely done. We learn enough to keep interest, but not so much that the background gets in the way of the story. In fact, with his assistant (ostensibly "maintenance man") there are a few mysteries hinted, which I'm sure will be revealed in forthcoming books.

As for the lost cause cold case that intrigues MØrck: it is deftly presented with separate chapters that deal with the victim from shortly before the time of her disappearance; with each Lynggaard chapter, you learn more about her and what might have happened. It's gripping down to the action-packed finale. In the last scene, The Keeper of Lost Causes is also touching with the emotions of MØrck, and all those involved.

Fine story. Fine writing (and translation).

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