Review - DISGRACE, Jussi Adler-Olsen
DISGRACE is the second book in the Danish series featuring Carl Mørck, who heads Copenhagen's cold case squad. A department made up of one very grumpy, sidelined cop; one civilian assistant who used to be the cleaner, and as of DISGRACE, one secretary who seems to have been shunted down to the basement with the other two because she's caused havoc everywhere else.
If you've not read the earlier book - THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES - a little background of the characters. Mørck is wonderfully cynical, grumpy and tricky to get on with. Which doesn't seem to worry his Syrian assistant Assad at all. The patient Assad is the perfect counterpoint for Mørck. Actually he's probably one of the very few people in the world who can work with him, that list now including Rose - a secretarial come research assistant with an attitude not afraid to be just as grumpy and cantankerous as her boss.
The cases investigated by Department Q seem to depend a lot on which files Assad pre-reads and considers worthy of Mørck's attention, although in this case, a file anonymously arrives on Mørck's desk on the brutal bashing murder of a teenage brother and sister twenty years ago. What makes it an unlikely candidate for Department Q is that there is somebody in jail already, having confessed to the killings. But the method of arrival of the file raises lots of questions in the team's mind, and as soon as they start to scratch the surface, there's a lot more to this and connected cases than anybody originally bothered to look at. Although almost immediate pressure from above probably gives a hint about why the case seemed to be filed away so quickly, it's partly that pressure that makes Mørck even more determined to get to the bottom of it.
This series is a strong combination of character and plot, although in this outing the gang of villains and their activities are about as stomach churning as you'd want to deal with as up close as DISGRACE makes you do. As Mørck gradually connects the killings with a range of other assaults and murders, it quickly becomes apparent that there is one woman that can shed some light on all these cases. Kimmie's damaged by her involvement with the gang of old schoolfriends who now are pursuing her. She's been living on the streets for many years now, despite being a relatively wealthy young woman. And she's got some very big secrets and some scores to settle of her own.
The plot revolves around who finds Kimmie first, as well as working out the connections between the gang and the various cases and it works really well, despite sometimes being a little too bogged down in side issues. There is enough suspense to keep the reader motivated to continue through those slight lags, although there is also a lot of violent and horrible imagery which is frequently offset by the humour - particularly Mørck's dry and self-deprecating style. For those for whom it's a serious problem - there are depictions of animal cruelty which are like to upset.
What makes this series one that's particularly appealing are the characters. Their development into a team from the first book, through to this one makes them really engaging and very real. Their dynamic makes dealing with the nasty privileged monsters that are the perpetrator's palatable if not comfortable. It's a series that I'm, yet again, way too far behind on and champing at the bit to continue with.
THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES also published as MERCY
DISGRACE also published as THE ABSENT ONE
Kimmie's home is on the streets of Copenhagen. To live she must steal. She has learned to avoid the police and never to stay in one place for long. But now others are trying to find her. And they won't rest until she has stopped moving - for good. Detective Carl Mørck of Department Q, the cold cases division, has received a file concerning the brutal murder of a brother and sister twenty years earlier. A group of boarding school students were the suspects at the time - until one of their number confessed and was convicted. So why is the file of a closed case on Carl's desk? Who put it there? Who believes the case is not solved? A police detective wants to talk to Kimmie and someone else is asking questions about her. They know she carries secrets certain powerful people want to stay buried deep. But Kimmie has one of her own. It's the biggest secret of them all. And she can't wait to share it with them...