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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Absent One and A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

To catch up on the Dept. Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen, I went to the library and was fortunate to find the second and third in the series sitting on the shelf.  Just the two I needed! 

The Absent One 

When a twenty-year-old cold case concerning the murder of a young man and his sister leads to other old cases connected to a gang of wealthy prep school kids, Dept. Q's Carl Morck finds that someone doesn't want these cases re-opened.  The members of the prep school gang are now famous, influential, and powerful.

Eventually, Morck focuses on finding a street woman named Kimmie, a woman who has a cunning gift for survival and camouflage.  Kimmie has lots of experience at avoiding unwanted attention.  She appears as a bag lady most of the time, but when needed, she can transform her appearance into that of an expensive, well-dressed wife or business woman.  She needs these chameleon-like skills; the police are only a recent concern;  Kimmie has been hiding from something much more deadly for nearly twenty years.  

Rose is introduced in this second book in the series, but there is too little of Assad, and it is Assad who leavens this bread of good and evil.  The sly humor and comic relief added by Assad, that clever and mysterious man, keeps the viciousness of the crimes from becoming too much.  

I have to hesitate a bit on this one.  The bad guys were a little too depraved for me and the plot pretty far-fetched.  Yet, while I didn't like it as much as I hoped, the book was, nevertheless, riveting.  

Translator:  K.E. Semmel;  British title:  Disgrace

Library copy/Dutton

Nordic Crime/Police Procedural.  2012.  406 pages.
A Conspiracy of Faith suited me better than The Absent One.  More Assad, more humor to contrast with the evil doings.  There are certainly plenty of detestable villains in most of Nordic crime novels, and they are present in the Dept. Q books as well. Fortunately, Adler-Olsen doesn't dwell on the graphic details of the crimes; his ability to create tension and dread works even better than lengthy, gory descriptions.

The books, however, are long and there are plenty of details--but they are details concerning Morck (his ex-wife, his friend Hardy, his romantic interest in Mona), Rose (and her sister, Yrsa), and Assad (where does he really live?).  There are also details concerning another crime concerning arson under investigation. 

As a result of these digressions, many readers find the books too slow and too long.  I'm not one of those.  I like them long.  I like most of the details about what goes on in the private lives of the Dept. Q team and about politics within the police department.  They are the real reason I love the series.

A Conspiracy of Faith begins with a message in a bottle--a long delayed cry for help.  When the message finally makes its way to Dept. Q, it is so damaged that determining much of the message is a difficult guessing game.  

This isn't a whodunit, a matter of having several suspects and determining which one is the killer.  We know who the killer is and have insight into his goals and his methods.  There is information about his childhood and dysfunctional family, and about his married life and the control he exerts over his wife and her behavior--but we don't know his real name, where he works, or how he conducts his life when he isn't involved in his murderous activities.

I am now all caught up on all 5 English translations of Dept. Q!

Translator:  Martin Aitken (I like his translations);  British title:  Redemption   

Library copy/Dutton

Nordic Crime/Police Procedural.  2013.  504 pages.


  1. I just started The Absent One so I'll wait to read your review.

  2. Have you read the first one in the series, The Keeper of Lost Causes?

  3. I bought his standalone - Alphabet House. I'm looking forward to it. I may want to add this series after that. :)

  4. Oh, I'll have to look for Alphabet House! Thanks, Melody!

  5. Assad sounds like an interesting character. I haven't read this series yet, but it sounds like it's a good one.

  6. Adler-Olsen's Dept. Q series is at the top of my list for Nordic/Scandinavian Crime. Like others in the genre, the books are pretty dark, but the balance achieved with humor sets these novels apart.