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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen; trans. Lisa Hartford

Mercy arrived from Francesca Russell with PenguinUK on Monday.  I started it Monday night, stayed up late, finished the next morning.  Thanks, Francesca, this one was a real page turner!  In fact, I have 5 books waiting to be reviewed, but they will just have to wait in line because this one is taking priority.

Mercy is the Winner of the Glass key Award 2010 for Best Nordic Crime Thriller--previously awarded to Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.  It is also the Winner of the Reader's Book Award (Denmark) 2010, Danish Thriller of the Year 2010, and The Golden Laurels award in Denmark.

Carl Morck was a top homocide detective until one of his team members is killed, the other one is paralyzed, and Morck himself is shot while investigating a murder.  Morck, already an outsider because of his caustic remarks, now finds it difficult to cope.  He can't get along with anyone else; no one wants to work with him and understandably so.

To get him out of the way, he is promoted to a new department for cold (and hopeless) cases--Department Q.  His boss sees the newly formed Department Q as a means of keeping Morck out of the way while gaining extra money for the department.  Morck understands that his new office in the basement has benefits both to his boss and to himself and intends to while away his time doing as little as possible.  He is assigned one assistant to perform various chores and errands.

Enter Assad, an immigrant with some unusual talents.  The first of these abilities that Morck pays genuine attention to is Assad's ability to charm some of the dragons that beleaguer Morck, but Assad puzzles the detective in many ways.

I like Morck.  He's going through some personal difficulties, he's sarcastic, he's lazy, he's off-beat, and he has a rare intuitive approach to crime.  But I love Assad.  Full of surprises and humor, Assad galvanizes Morck. The two develop a  quietly hilarious relationship that can lighten even some of the more serious scenes. 

Morck (or Assad) chooses to begin with the case of Merete Lynggaard, a young and beautiful politician who vanished five years earlier.  Earlier investigations assumed she drowned, but her body was never discovered and there were a few anomalies.  At first, Morck doesn't really believe he will find any answers either, but he becomes interested in spite of himself.

And Merete Lynggaard isn't dead.  She has endured a situation that most would consider worse, and yet, she maintains her sanity and her own sense of autonomy as far as is possible. 

While the first few chapters were a little slow, filling in some background about the case that ended in such disaster for Morck's team, the tension slowly begins to pick up when Morck begins looking into the Lynggaard case and, punctuated with some really amusing sections, the suspense continues to mount throughout the book.  By the end, I could hardly keep myself from skimming to discover what was going to happen. 

Carl Morck and Assad are two wonderful additions to the field of criminal fiction.  I can't wait to read more about these two and Department Q.  Highly recommended for those who love crime fiction!

Fiction.  Mystery/Crime.  2008.  Eng. trans.  2011.  489 pages.


  1. Jenclair, this book sounds really great. I love cold case books. I loved the TV show Cold Case. Something about delving into the past - secrets and all that. Thanks for telling about it and I am going to find a copy if I can.

  2. Great review! I love discovering more of the Scandinavian thrillers that have come out in the past few years so I will definitely be adding this one to my list.

  3. Weird...I just reviewed this one last week under its American title "The Keeper of Lost Causes." I think it will be published here in August, but I was sent an e-book version for review. I loved the teamwork of this most unusual duo.

  4. Yay - good to hear you liked this one. I just got it in the mail today and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

  5. Kay--I liked the BBC show Waking the Dead on which Cold Case was based, but I only watched the American version a couple of times.

    This book does delve into the past in a similar way!

    Iliana - The Scandanavian thrillers have certainly come to the forefront in recent years. I loved the way this one could balance the grim parts with such sly and warm humor with Assad.

    Sam - I missed your review, Sam. Morck and Assad make a great team, don't they?

    SuziQ - Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  6. Like Sam I'm reading this on my ereader under the US title and it is very engrossing as you mention! I like Morck as well and hope more of Olsen's books are translated into English!

  7. Danielle - I'm hoping so, too! And soon!