John's Reviews > The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
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's review
Jul 12, 13

bookshelves: to-read
Read in July, 2013

A few weeks ago I read and didn't much enjoy Adler-Olsen's third book in the Department Q series: it seemed to fall into two halves, one of which annoyed me and the other of which I liked much better. Noting that it had an average GoodReads rating above four stars, I browsed around to see if it was Just Me. In fact, there are a few others who were likewise a bit iffy about the novel, one of whom (I forget who) said quite forcefully that #1 in the series was pretty damn' fine. So I decided to give it a try . . .

I enjoyed the whole of this book as much as I did the better half of A Conspiracy of Faith. It didn't bowl me over, but it was a better than average thriller. Five years ago, rising national politician Merete Lynggaard disappeared on a ferry to Germany, perhaps lost overboard, the only witness being her brother Uffe; unfortunately, ever since the car crash in their childhood that killed their parents, Uffe has been mentally retarded, so he could tell the investigating cops nothing.

Now, an opportunist politician has demanded the Copenhagen cops set up a Cold Case Department, and parliament has allocated money for it. The Homicide Dept. is happy to accept the funding, less so to set up the section . . . until inspiration strikes. Carl Morck, the dept.'s prime PITA cop, has just returned to duty after a tragic incident saw the death of one of his sidekicks and the permanent hospitalization of the other. What better than to promote Carl sideways into the job of running Department Q singledhandedly, thereby getting him out of everyone's hair while being able to divert the bulk of the allocated funds to other purposes? Soon Carl wangles himself an assistant, the enigmatic Syrian emigre Assad, who's supposedly just for menial duties but proves far better than he should be at this detectiving business. And the first case the pair take up is that of the long-missing Merete Lynggaard . . .

As in Conspiracy, there are secondary cases. One concerns the incident that lost Carl his two sidekicks; that still hasn't been solved by book's end. The other is a savage murder in a local park; even though Carl's not supposed to be meddling in active cases, he gives the investigating team (with more help from Assad than he initially realizes) some pointers that lead to the case's early solution. I had a sort of "So what?" response to this strand of the book, and wished the tale had stuck to the main plot.

We're given enough information that the solution to that mystery isn't especially hard to work out; the pleasure comes from watching Carl and Assad, who of course for a long time have far less to work with than we do, eventually getting there; from our sympathies with the plucky Merete; and from the genuinely exciting buildup of tension as the two cops race to reach Merete in time.

Really this deserves ~3.5 stars: it's better than the average blockbuster US thriller you'll come across, but it's not exceptional. If I see another Adler-Olsen book, in the series or out of it, I might pick it up, but I doubt I'd go out of my way.

Hum. Haw. Swither.
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