The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen – review

There are all kinds of Scandinavian protagonists, but Carl Morsck, the irascible Danish detective introduced to readers in this novel, is up there with the best of them. An iconoclast, the homicide chief doesn’t know what to do with him, as Carl insults and ignores his fellow police officers in Copenhagen. And when in the course of an investigation he and his two team members are shot, one of whom is killed and the other paralyzed from the neck down, and Carl wounded in the head because he faltered in reaching for his own weapon, his situation becomes untenable. So they kick him upstairs to get rid of him by making Carl the head of Department Q, which is set up to investigate old unsolved cases.

Among the 40 or so files that land on Carl’s desk, he becomes fascinated with one: a five-year old case in which a leading woman legislator went missing off a ferry on the way to Berlin with her brother, the only witness and who, as a result of a boyhood accident, is unable to communicate. Carl gains an assistant, a Syrian granted Danish asylum named Assad, bringing the department to a total of two. And they go about delving into the stale case with fresh eyes.

The characters are real, and the prose smooth with a smattering of wry observations and comments. Truly Carl and Assad are worthy new additions to the genre. The plot is very different from other noir Scandinavian novels, and I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up, “The Absent One.”


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Theodore Feit

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