It’s about time for another book review of a favorite author. So while I prepare my blog on my very first ‘Destination Wedding”, get out your reading glasses and prepare yourself with one of the earlier books while waiting for the release of the The Scarred Woman.
The Scarred Woman
After I discovered and read, along with the rest of the world, the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy by Steig Larsson, I scarfed down every Scandinavian mystery/crime thriller I could find. I didn’t care if I’d never heard of the author, experience was teaching me that the books were sometimes good and often great. I don’t remember reading a poor one.
I was excited to discover two books by an author I’d not heard of, Jussi Adler-Olsen, a Dane, at a neighborhood book sale. They were both in practically perfect condition. Either the owner prior to me took extraordinarily good care of paperbacks or s/he was put off by the length of these mysteries. Her loss.
The two books I picked up happened to be the first two books in the series about Department Q. One certainly doesn’t have to read them in order–there are seven in all including The Scarred Woman–but I have loved being witness to the evolution of the main characters and Department Q itself. The first book details the beginning of Department Q, a demotion for Carl Morck who, although an excellent detective, is surly and on the outs with many of his colleagues. Department Q is created, in the bowels of the basement, for him to work on cold cases. He is given an assistant, Assad, a Muslim Dane, with a mysterious and dubious history. The two attempt to solve unsolvable cases.
As the series moves on, Carl and Assad get another member of the team, Rose. Rose is as off beat as the other two and the interactions between the three of them provide a levity much needed to balance the gruesome Nordic mystery and murders.
By the seventh book, years have passed, Carl and his team have become famous for solving hideous past crimes. They have saved each others’ lives and there is a strong if unspoken affection between all the team members that keeps the reader involved in these lengthy books. A fourth member has joined the team. Gordon has a serious crush on Rose and, as The Scarred Woman moves along, is traumatized by the fact that something is seriously emotionally wrong with Rose. The Chief of Police has retired and he, too, is falling apart after the death of his wife. However, a recent death looks to him like a murder as it is so similar to one seventeen years ago that he worked on. He is intrigued and asked Carl to look into it.
Meanwhile, another story of three beautiful but lazy, entitled girls, determined to marry rich men while living off their lies to their Social Worker, seems completely unrelated. Nothing happens without a reason and nothing happens quickly. For me, this is part of the charm of this series. We think along with Carl and Assad and sometimes the murderer. There are many many threads going at the same time much as life and the juggling of priorities and time are not unfamiliar to most of us. We are amused by the repartee between Carl and Assad especially and astounded by the many sides of Rose. The books are long, 500 to 600 or more pages but Adler-Olsen is such a good writer and so adapt at bringing the reader along far a wonderful ride that one feels we’re reading about distant friends. I never wanted any of the books to end.
I’ve always wondered how authors like Ruth Rendall, Adler-Olsen and a number of the Scandinavian writers come up with people and crimes that are pure evil. Some authors spend time making sure the reader understands that the murderer is a victim also, hostage to his or her past. I wouldn’t call Adler-Olsen’ books psychological thrillers as a number have now been labeled. He entertains us, he scares us and, often, he provides background to explain some of the horror but doesn’t dwell on it. As someone who worked in a psychological profession, I can say that he has definitely done his research. But then to create these masterful jigsaw puzzles from his research and extraordinary mind is true literary genius to me. One of the books says he is the No 1 bestselling author in Denmark. I didn’t know that as I’d never heard of him before this summer but I don’t doubt it.
If you are a true mystery/thriller fan and also like good writing, read this book and oh by the way, read the other five books also so that you became part of Department Q!.