Carl Mørck is one of Copenhagen’s finest, albeit cranky and anti-social, detectives. After investigation of a murder goes horribly wrong, killing one of his partners and sending the other to hospital and likely to be paralysed for life, Carl is given charge of the newly created ‘Department Q’. With a staff of one, plus his assistant Assad (whose own origins are questionable), Mørck begins to take on cold cases, convinced that he’s been shunted aside.
One case catches his interest, after several weeks of laziness and dithering: the disappearance and possible suicide of well-known politician Merete Lynggaard. She’s been gone for five years, presumed fallen overboard/jumped from the top rail of a ferry. However, Mørck starts digging, and the case is more than it appears to be on the surface.
Adler-Olsen has created a page-turner. I’m often able to guess at the identity of the guilty party long before it is revealed, but this one kept me puzzled, and I was happier for it. The book jumps back and forth between years, from the time leading up to Merete’s disappearance and for the present day (2007) and Mørck’s investigation, but it didn’t take me out of the story in the least.
His prose style is (at least in the English translation, as I can’t read the original Danish) reminiscent of Hammett or Chandler – what’s often described as ‘gritty and realistic’. If this book were a movie (and I wish it was!), I’d call it film noir. Even if you’re not a fan of crime novels, I’d still give you this one to try. If you’ve read Stieg Larsson and enjoyed his work, then you really should pick this up and expand your Scandinavian noir repertoire. However, you’ll have to be patient: the novel isn’t out until August 18th, 2011. It’d be that perfect last read for the summer, on a lounge chair on the deck, sipping a glass of lemonade.