Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Carl Mørck used to be a good homicide detective—one of Copenhagen's best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren't so lucky, and Carl, who didn't draw his weapon, blames himself.

So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl's been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen's coldest cases to keep him company, Carl's been put out to pasture. So he's as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she's dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he's wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

Because she isn't dead . . . yet.

--The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translated by Tiina Nunnally
Copyright ©August 23, 2011 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Published Penguin Group (USA)

My Review

Carl Mørck, criminal investigator for the Copenhagen police is returning to work after surviving an ambush that killed one member of his team and paralyzed the other. He’s a gruff man and not popular with his co-workers, to the extent that no one wants to partner up with him. Desiring to get rid of him, or at least put him somewhere where he won’t have much interaction with anyone else, his bosses make him the new head of “Department Q,” a cold-case squad with emphasis on cases that are of “particular interest to the public welfare.” Carl is not happy with his new position, but settles into the offices of Department Q…located in the basement…with his new assistant, Hafez el-Assad.

Sorting through the stack of cases, Carl’s not much interested in any of them, but he keeps coming back to one. Merete Lynggard, vice-chairperson for the Social Democrats in the Folketing (the Danish Parliament), disappeared five years ago while riding the ferry from Rødby, Denmark to Puttgarden, Germany. It was assumed she either fell or jumped overboard as her body had never been found. She was declared legally dead and her handicapped brother was made a ward of the state. It seems pretty cut-and-dried, and he knew he should move on to a different case, but there’s something about this one that keeps nagging at him.

So he starts digging. Assad, though not trained in police investigation, proves to have valuable insight and asks just the right questions to keep Carl moving forward. Everyone believes Merete is dead. So does Carl. But as he digs into a plot of revenge rooted deeply in a disturb mind, he begins to wonder if Merete is still alive. And if she is, can he find her before the ones responsible for her disappearance extract their final revenge?

You know a story’s got you when you’re about three-fourths of the way through and you find yourself dreaming of possible endings and losing sleep over them. Yeah, I did that.

The story moves back and forth between Carl’s investigation in the present and Merete’s life starting shortly before her abduction in 2002. As Carl’s investigation moves forward, Merete’s life in her prison is fast-forwarded until the two timelines converge.

Carl Mønck is a wonderful character, full of flaws and angst and yet you can’t help but pull for him as he works his way through this mystery and tries to sort out his life. He’s separated from his wife, Vigga, and lives with his step-son and a tenant. He has unresolved emotions regarding the ambush that resulted in the death of one member of his team and the paralyzing of another and his own inability to react the way he feels he should have in the situation. Plus he’s dealing with the political games his department heads are playing and trying to figure out how he can best benefit from their maneuvers. And then there’s Carl’s mysterious assistant, Assad. The man definitely has a past, something Carl attempts to get out of Assad without success. But for a man who’s able to solve a five-year-old cold case, finding out exactly why Assad had to leave Syria for Denmark should be no trouble...but that's a story line for another book (I hope).

This is the American release of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s 2007 best-selling novel, Kvinden i buret (Woman in a Cage). It was released in the UK as Mercy and will be released here in the US as The Keeper of Lost Causes.

(Can someone in the publishing industry please clue me in as to why foreign author’s books are constantly being renamed whenever they’re released to a new market?)

This is the first book in the Department Q series. The second and third, Fasandræberne/The Pheasant Killers, and Flaskepost fra P/Message in a Bottle have been published in Denmark and, hopefully, will be available to the English-speaking market soon. I will definitely be looking for them.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

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