Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Against all odds, Detective Carl Morck of the Copenhagen Police Department, has made a success of Department Q. When he returned from sick leave a year ago, the force wasn’t sure what to do with him. He was judged fit to return to service but having your partner killed in front of you and your oldest friend completely paralyzed didn’t leave the administration brimming with confidence about Monck’s abilities to work. A brilliant bureaucratic idea created Department Q for Morck. He was assigned to the basement, there to work on the coldest of cold cases and leave the administration alone. Against all odds, Morck and his Syrian assistant, a janitor named Hafez Assad, solved one of the most mysterious cold cases in the department’s history. Now, Morck is untouchable with all the public praise his work has garnered.

He is so successful that he returns from his summer vacation to find that his basement empire has been enlarged with the addition of Rose Knudsen. Her dream was to be a policewoman, but failing the driving test meant that couldn’t happen. She has now been assigned to Morck to help him and he is dismayed by the realization that just sitting and doing nothing is getting more problematic as he gets more publicity and assistants. Against his inclination, he starts another case.

The new case is a strange one. Two students, brother and sister, were killed twenty years ago. The suspects were a group of boarding students from a prestigious academy. There was no real evidence and the case was unsolved for nine years. Suddenly, after almost a decade, one of the group had come in and confessed and was currently serving time. The others in the group went their separate ways, and used their wealth and influence to become leaders in Danish businesses. Did the man in jail really commit the crime by himself as he claimed or did the group buy him off? Who put the case on Carl’s desk and why has it surfaced again after all these years? And where is the absent one, Kimmie? Kimmie was the only female in the group but opposed to the success of the men, has spent years living on the streets as a homeless vagrant. What drove Kimmie to the streets and where is she now? Was the student murder the group’s only crime or just the tip of the iceberg?

Readers who enjoyed Adler-Olsen’s first book, The Keeper Of Lost Causes, will be glad to visit again with Monck. Monck’s gritty determination to follow through and his ability to solve cases almost against his will are intriguing. The plot of the case is complicated and intricately connected as Monck attempts to determine why such successful men fear no one but the absent one. This book is recommended for mystery readers.

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