The Absent One
A Carl Mørck, Department Q Mystery by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Review: Department Q was set up to handle cold cases, but the file that has mysteriously landed on detective Carl Mørck's desk is anything but cold: two teenaged siblings murdered twenty years ago, the man responsible, who confessed to the crime, behind bars. So why is someone dropping a not so subtle hint that there's something for Mørck and his team to investigate? That's the question he sets out to answer in The Absent One, the second mystery in this series by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The book was first published in Denmark in 2008 as Fasandræberne; it's UK title is Disgrace.
No one in the department will admit to leaving the file on his desk, so Mørck and his assistant Assad decide to take a look at the crime scene, a summer cottage that has remained unoccupied to this day. To Mørck, everything seems to be as it was two decades earlier, right down to the blood-spattered game of Trivial Pursuit the victims were apparently playing when they were killed. But wait … shouldn't the game have been taken as evidence by the original investigating officers? Mørck confirms the game is in storage at police headquarters. Why, then, would someone try to recreate the scene of the crime, right down to the position of the cards and the score … unless they were certain that the facts reported in the file may not be accurate, and the man convicted of the crime, despite his confession, may not be the killer.
Observing the house from the outside, a strange unease came over Carl. This case was like grabbing at quicksilver: poisonous to touch, impossible to hold. Liquid and solid at the same time. The many years that had passed. The man who'd turned himself in. The gang formed at school, now roaming the upper echelons of society.
The Absent One has an intriguing premise and starts strong. Mørck and Assad make for an odd team, mismatched partners, if you will, but there is an entertaining dynamic between them that is most sorely missed when neither is part of the narrative. (The points-of-view shift between Mørck and Assad and a group of influential businessmen, who were students together with the convicted man back when the crime was committed.) The real problem here is that the story, after its promising setup, proceeds along at a glacial speed. Without giving too much away, there isn't much of a mystery for Mørck to solve, rather, it's a matter of connecting the dots. For the reader, those same dots happen much earlier than they do for Mørck so there's always a sense that everything should be moving along quicker than it does. Too, there is a considerable amount of graphic violence, of which some appears to be gratuitous, simply to punch up a storyline that is clearly dragging.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided an ARC of The Absent One for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Keeper of Lost Causes
Dutton (Hardcover), August 2011
ISBN-13: 9780525952480; ISBN-10: 0525952489
Location(s) referenced in The Absent One: Denmark
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The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen — A Carl Mørck, Department Q Mystery
Publication Date: August 2012
List Price: $26.95