Maddy's Reviews > The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011-reads, tops
Read in July, 2011

PROTAGONIST: Carl Morck, homicide detective
SETTING: Copenhagen, Denmark

Normally when a police officer is wounded in the line of duty, he returns to his job determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. That’s not the case for Carl Morck, who comes back to the Copenhagen Police Department after three months of sick leave and is shirking all of his responsibilities. It would seem that he would be anxious to set out to find the person who shot him, killed one of his teammates and left another paralyzed; but that is not the case.

Although he is a brilliant detective, Carl has always been exceptionally difficult to get along with. He looks down on the work of his peers, feeling that they are not doing all that they should with their cases and often makes “suggestions” that, while quite on target, are met with resistance. It’s causing a problem in the department, one that homicide chief Marcus Jacobsen solves by promoting Morck and creating a new section called “Department Q”. Department Q is dedicated to investigating cold cases, and Morck is the only person working in it. The government has provided quite a lot of funding for the unit, most of which Jacobsen is redirecting to enhance the regular section.

The department is located in the basement, and Morck spends his time doing Sudoko puzzles and playing computer games. He requests an assistant to take care of keeping the place clean and gets much more than he bargained for. Hafez el-Assad is quite a character. Assad has always wanted to be an investigator, and he is actually quite good at it. At first he fades into the background but soon pushes Carl into actually taking on a case and eventually becomes an unofficial partner in its resolution. Assad adds a welcome dollop of humor to the narrative and is one of the more interesting characters I’ve seen in some time.

The case involves the disappearance of a political figure five years earlier. Merete Lynggaard was on a ferry when she vanished. It is assumed that she fell overboard and drowned. The reality is that she has been held prisoner in a pressure chamber for all that time. Every year on her birthday, her abductor increases the pressure; if the chamber is ever opened, she would be the victim of an internal explosion of her body. Her thoughts and actions as she deals with her captivity provide engrossing reading.

The chapters in the book alternate between Morck’s investigation and Merete’s ordeal. The descriptions of what she has gone through over the course of the years are absolutely riveting. Suspense mounts as Morck and Assad begin to put the pieces together. Will they be able to find her before she either kills herself or is murdered by the abductor? If they do find her, will she survive being released from the pressure chamber? It all comes together at the conclusion, which was my only disappointment in the book, as it devolved into a series of action scenes that didn’t feel in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book.

All of the characters in the book are intriguing and unique. My favorite was Assad, who was humorous, intelligent and perceptive. I can’t wait for the translation of the other books in this series so that I can spend more time with him. On the other hand, although Carl is an excellent detective, he has a lot of issues as a person. He’s different from the cookie cutter disturbed protagonist, eccentric yet intuitive, and that made him interesting. Merete, homicide chief Jacobsen and other secondary characters were nicely developed as well.

Adler-Olsen is the winner of several Danish crime fiction prizes. THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES is the first in the Department Q series with a well-done translation by Tina Nunnally. Don’t make the mistake of lumping Adler-Olsen in with the current crop of Scandinavian writers—his work should be recognized on its own merit.

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02/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lewis Weinstein a new author (for me) added to my list ... thanks

Lewis Weinstein Read it, loved it, thanks.

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