The Keeper of Lost Causes
A Carl Mørck, Department Q Mystery by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Review: Following an incident that left one of his partners dead and the other paralyzed, police detective Carl Mørck is shuffled off to a basement office to run a new "cold case" division in the department in The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first mystery in this series by Jussi Adler-Olsen, originally published in Denmark in 2007 as Kvinden i buret, which can be translated as "The Woman in the Cage", an integral plot point of the story.
Mørck knows he's been given an "out of sight, out of mind"-type job, and intends to treat it as such, spending his day surfing the Internet when he's not dozing, biding his time until he can collect his pension. But when he learns that the division, nicknamed Department Q, has been allocated a significant budget, he demands an assistant, an eager young detective named Assad. Feeling a bit guilty about not having anything for Assad to do, Mørck selects one of the handful of potential cases that have been assigned to Department Q, one involving a young female politician, Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago while on a ferry to Germany.
Most of the chapters of The Keeper of Lost Causes follow Mørck and Assad as they pursue their investigation into the woman's disappearance. This police procedural aspect of the book is excellent, well paced with a relatively small number of characters to keep track of. The pieces of the puzzle are all in the five-year-old file, and it's a pleasure following Mørck along as he puts them together.
The other chapters in the book follow Merete from the period just before her abduction through her ordeal of being held captive. This element doesn't work quite as well, in part because her character is — probably intentionally — minimally developed, possibly in order to retain some of the mystery about why she is being held in a cage. Furthermore, little information — again intentionally — is known about her captors or their motives. To be sure, there aren't many of these chapters, representing maybe 15-20% or so of the entire book, but they don't really add much value and aren't suspenseful in and of themselves, thus it isn't quite clear why so much of the book is devoted to them.
On balance, The Keeper of Lost Causes is a fine start to this series, one that will have readers eagerly looking forward to the next two that have already been published in the author's native Denmark.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Keeper of Lost Causes for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Absent One
Dutton (Hardcover), August 2012
ISBN-13: 9780525952893; ISBN-10: 0525952896
Location(s) referenced in The Keeper of Lost Causes: Denmark
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The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen — A Carl Mørck, Department Q Mystery
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $25.95