Friday, October 28, 2011

The Keeper of Lost Causes

By Jussi Adler-Olsen

Don’t get confused by the title. You’ll soon find yourself enjoying The Keeper of Lost Causes with its subtle humor, interesting characters, and a unique take on kidnapping. Although this reader is usually wary of foreign police detective stories, I found myself moving through this story quickly eagerly waiting to see where it would take me to next.

Carl Morck is back to work in Copenhagen’s homicide department after a murder investigation gone wrong, where one of his teammates died and another ended up paralyzed. He is ‘promoted’ to Department Q, a newly created department in charge of what in layman’s terms are called cold cases. Relegated to the basement and with the help of his enigmatic ‘assistant,’ Morck reluctantly eases himself into a five year old kidnapping case of Danish politician, Merete Lynggaard, as well as keeping his nose into current cases, including the one which temporarily put him out of action. The story jumps back and forth between the present day investigations and showing the horror Lynggaard suffers at the hands of her tormentors throughout the years.

As I mentioned above, this is a unique take on kidnapping to offset a traditional police procedural investigation. The back and forth action keeps you moving along without bogging you down.

Carl Morck – Veteran homicide investigator. A streak of laziness, cynicism, and sarcasm. He has to deal with issues from every side of him. From a nagging wife, to a rebel stepson, and ‘partner’ who is more than he seems, a boss trying to put him in his place, and many more. A good rounded character.

Merete Lynggaard – Vice Chairperson of the Social Democrat party. No nonsense, professional, determine. She has a very busy schedule with no time for socializing because she cares for a brain damaged brother. She is shown from just before her kidnapping and her scenes show her suffering throughout the years. I like her strength and creativity.

Hafez el-Assad – Morck’s assistant. A Muslim who claims a Syrian background, but there is more to this guy than meets the eye. I like how he confounds and amazes Morck. A vital character to add a bit of comic relief.

Straight, to the point. Doesn’t waste time.

This story is character driven from the surly Mrs. Sorenson to the gruff but empathetic Jacobsen to the mentally damaged Uffe. Adler-Olsen doesn’t throw away minor characters, but brings them into a new light and shows the effect they have on others. You really feel the anguish of Lynggaard in her prison, the frustration of Morck with his assistant’s tidbits of knowledge, his wife’s constant nagging, and his tenant’s quirks, and sympathy for a confused Uffe. Despite the foreign locale, the unpronounceable Danish names, and the fact this reader deduced the bad guy early on, this award winning author’s story is delightful, suspenseful, and makes you root for the good guys.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

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