Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #81: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

As Scandinavian crime thrillers go, this one goes to the head of the class.  Yes, the protagonist is yet another cynical grump of a homicide detective who doesn’t play well with others and is suffering clinical burn-out. This may sound like all the other Scandinavian police procedurals out there, but the author’s genius is to give his “hero” a partner who not only brings levity to the story but the kind of friendship and guidance that Detective Carl Morck desperately needs, and which apparently brings out the best in him. A well-written, exciting thriller, a great who-done-it with seat-of-the-pants action that doesn’t disappoint.

In The Keeper of Lost Causes, worn-out homicide detective Morck has gotten on everyone’s nerves at the department since the shoot-out that took the life of one partner, paralyzed another for life, and left Morck suffering survivor’s guilt and serious self-doubt. To get him out of everyone’s hair, he is “promoted” to be sole head of a newly-created Department Q, which is charged with solving cold cases, otherwise known as lost causes. Consigned to a basement office, Morck is happy to be able to sleep away the time til he can pension out, until an assistant is assigned to Dept Q to help keep the basement clean, fetch Morck’s coffee, make photocopies and serve as driver on demand. Somehow, Assad turns out to be a miraculous combination of clown, supersecretary, and investigative sleuth extraordinaire, who refuses to let Morck lay down on the job.

The first cold case that Assad places under Morck’s nose is that of rising political star Merete Lynggaard, who disappeared without a trace five years earlier. As Morck and Assad plod through the meager evidence in the file, they find threads that were never pulled, clues that were never followed. Incompetence, or something more? Author Adler-Olsen uses the technique of alternating chapters of Morck’s turtle-paced investigation with flashbacks—starting five years ago–to Lynggaard’s horrific ordeal as a kidnap/torture victim. The reader is slowly brought forward in time and the two sides of the story are powerfully brought together.

Looking forward to the next adventure of this delightfully exciting and surprisingly different Morck/Assad duo.

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