Date: July 21 2012
Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen's prizewinning third novel in the Department Q series will be published next year in English with the title Redemption. The first, Mercy, introduced Detective Superintendent Carl Morck, his enigmatic assistant Assad and Department Q, established to investigate cold cases and intended to keep the irritating, and thus unpopular, Morck away from his colleagues.
In Mercy, Morck and Assad rescue a politician held captive for five years. Disgrace, the second in the series, sees Morck basking in the success of that investigation. However, he is still condemned to the basement, although his department has a new member, Rose, a secretary who caused ''an internal hullabaloo'' in her last position. Rose will prove to be as intelligent, diligent and misunderstood as both Morck and Assad.
Morck discovers on his desk a file about a murder 20 years earlier of teenage siblings, a boy and a girl, beaten to death in a summer cottage. The crime appears motiveless, as there was no evidence of sexual assault, nor was anything stolen. A group of students from a prestigious boarding school, staying at the nearby summer house of one of their parents, were suspected. Now they are rich and live as respectable citizens in the upper echelons of Danish society. However two members of the group have not been so successful: Bjarne Thogersen, who eventually confessed to the killings, and a woman known as Kimmie, who has disappeared.
Logically, as Thogersen has confessed and been convicted for the murders, the case should be closed. Morck, however, suspects a cover-up. The confession came some nine years after the killings and tax records reveal Thogersen, a scholarship boy at school, has become a very rich man in prison, supposedly from speculating on the stock market.
Kimmie is living on the streets, hiding from the other members of the group. Resourceful, but tormented by voices, she inhabits an underworld where she survives by her wits and judicious thieving.
To Morck, who comes up against the power of the old boys' network, the case is ''like grabbing at quicksilver: poisonous to touch, impossible to hold. Liquid and solid at the same time.''
Adler-Olsen deftly juxtaposes the violent past of the suspects, Kimmie's life on the streets and Department Q's painstaking and relentless investigation until the three threads converge in a heart-stopping climax. As a result, Disgrace is a remarkable novel. Adler-Olsen's adroit use of humour and his richly drawn characters drive an absorbing, bleak and often brutal exploration of the abuse of power by the rich and the famous.
Anna Creer is a retired teacher.
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