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Book Review: Mercy–Jussi Adler-Olsen

11/11/2011

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A prisoner in the dark scratches the walls trying to understand why she is there.

Carl Mørck has recently been promoted to lead a new cold case department, named Department Q . The first case is the disappearance of once popular politician Merete Lynggard who vanished and presumed by everyone to be dead.

Carl Mørck is grumpy and difficult to get on with. He has just come back to work after being involved in a shooting incident that saw one of his friends paralysed, the other killed and he just about escaped with his own life.

The government is funding a new department to investigate noteworthy cold cases. On Carl’s return to work he finds himself promoted out of his colleagues hair and put in charge of Department Q, which is located down in the basement. As far away from everyone else as possible. His only company is his office assistant and cleaner Assad, an immigrant of unknown origin and unknown status. They make a peculiar partnership which is both quite amusing and highly likeable.

Mercy is prescribed as a cure for withdrawal symptoms from The Killing/Forbrydelsen, according to one of the blurbs on the back cover. It’s Danish, set in Copenhagen, it’s dark and it contains a police detective and a politician. It isn’t quite as good as Forbrydelsen but it is nice to be back in that city again. It was translated from the original Danish and first published in the UK in May. I do wonder if the publishers (Penguin) saw the sudden popularity for Forbrydelsen and anything remotely Danish and decided to cash in. I believe it is the first book of Jussi Adler-Older’s to be published in English.

And I admit, I bought it (as well as 2 others) because I pretty much fell head over heals in love with Forbrydelsen and just wanted to read a book of a similar nature or theme. And Mercy managed to fill those boots well enough for now at least.

It is a fast paced page-turner which is just about what every crime should be. I loved the unusual partnership between Carl and the ambiguous Assad. One moment he’s holding a mop in pink cleaning gloves, the next he’s proving to be a useful partner in solving crimes. Certainly not your usual detective partnership and one that will no doubt develop in the following books.

To begin with I did feel a bit critical – I thought the writing, or the translation felt too clunky and careless, but after a while it settled down for me, or I just got used to it. I’m not the biggest reader of crime fiction, although I have mostly enjoyed all the crimes I have read, but it’s hardly a genre known for it’s excellent use of language.

The men in this book seem to have a rather crude fixation on sex especially in relation to Merete, the missing politician. Whether this was just to prove a point that people can’t see beyond her gender, I’m not sure. Carl wasn’t far off the mark either. Maybe it’s just a blokey police thing can’t say I was overly impressed. Can’t men think about anything else?

However, this is a good opening to an interesting crime series. There’s a lot set up here to make you want to read on and find out more about the characters and the crimes they will be investigating.

Now, if only I could learn Danish I wouldn’t have to wait until whenever the next one is translated and released in the UK…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/11/2011 14:46

    I’m not much into crime fiction but the setting of this one is making me want to buy it. I can’t remember the last book I read that was set in Copenhagen.

  2. 11/11/2011 15:05

    I don’t read a great deal of crime fiction either… although when I do I seem to enjoy it.

    I don’t think you really got a sense of place within this book for Copenhagen to feel like a significant setting. However, I’m enjoying reading outside of the UK, which is my norm,

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