Veteran Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Morck has survived a shooting at a crime scene that has left one colleague dead, and another Hardy Henningsen in hospital paralysed.
Morck, still traumatized by this event, is pushed aside to lead a cold case squad [Department Q] in the basement of police headquarters.
'Indolent, surly, morose, always bitching, and he treats his colleagues like crap, so the team is about to fall apart. He's a thorn in our side, Marcus. Send Carl packing and let's bring in fresh blood.'
Department Q consists of Morck and his cleaner and tea maker, Assad, a Syrian immigrant, who obviously held a more responsible position in his homeland. Department Q's large budget, obtained from the weak politicians, will be spent on the main force, while Morck struggles in the basement with apparently unsolvable cases.
Morck's first case will be to investigate the disappearance five years before of young beautiful political high flyer Merete Lynggaard, who had been presumed drowned on a ferry trip. The action switches back and forth between Merete, who has been kidnapped, and Morck and Assad as they find facts that the previous shoddy investigation failed to undercover.
The tension mounts as Merete struggles to stay alive, Morck and Assad close in on the kidnappers, as the two timelines converge towards an exciting climax.
Jussi Adler-Olsen's Mercy is the first of four novels in the Department Q series, the third of which Flaskepost fra P [Message in a Bottle] won the prestigious 2010 Nordic Glass Key. The book is translated by Lisa Hartford [Tiina Nunnally] who has also translated crime fiction written by Karin Fossum, Marji Jungstedt, Peter Hoeg and Camilla Lackberg.
I really enjoyed Mercy, and rated it among the very best thrillers I have read over the past few years. The book follows a formula that has proved successful, and includes almost every feature of Scandinavian crime fiction I posted about last Saturday. But that formula works, and although every reader will work out fairly quickly who has kidnapped Merete this does not detract from one's enjoyment of the book.
Mismatched investigators have been a feature of crime fiction since the days of Homes and Watson, and Carl Morck and Assad are a worthy addition to the genre.
He nodded. 'Carl, I would be killed if I went back. That is how it is. The government in Syria was not really very happy with me, you understand.'
'We did not think the same. And that is enough.'
'Enough for what?'
'Syria is a big country. People just disappear.'
[Henning Mankell please note.]
The main characters are intriguing, Carl Morck, a traumatized detective with a broken marriage, whose wife has gone off to live with a younger lover, leaving him to look after his unappreciative stepson. Merete Lynggaard, a strong attractive woman totally dedicated to her work, and to Uffe, her brother disabled after a car accident that killed their parents. Assad, the immigrant struggling with and beginning to master this strange new environment.
Allied with a narrative that creates mounting tension, it meant that this reader rushed through those last pages with real concern for fictional characters who had almost become real people.
With the two converging story lines there is nothing particularly innovative about the plot construction of Mercy, but it all works beautifully, and Jussi Adler-Olsen has left me definitely wanting to read the rest of the Department Q series. I hope the translator is hard at work.
Carl dropped heavily on to the chair across from his assistant. 'It smells wonderful, Assad, but this is the police department. Not a Lebanese takeaway in Vanlose.'