Review - MERCY, Jussi Adler-Olsen

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

I've read MERCY (aka THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES) by Jussi Adler-Olsen twice now and finally I think I've got it the review straight in my head.

Why twice? The first time I read this book was right in the middle of a series of releases based around the woman locked in the basement scenario, and frankly, I was pissed off. Even though I really felt that this gross generalisation wasn't fair in the case of MERCY, this scenario had annoyed me so badly, objectiveness had become a real problem. So why reread and why now? Well a movie came out, and there were a lot more books in the Department Q series that I've been keen to try so a little reconsideration was required.

Based around the concept of cold cases, Carl Mørck is back with the Copenhagen Police Department, after six months sick leave recovering from being shot on duty. His colleague wasn't so lucky, still in hospital, paralysed and suffering.

Mørck has always been a difficult person to get on with and because of that the opportunity is taken to sideline him into “Department Q” the cold case unit. In the basement, where hopefully the lack of resources, and one suspects a general lack of oxygen / visibility get through to Mørck that he's not the most popular person. Which seems to be working on one level as he grudgingly shows up and spends most of his time solving Sudoko puzzles and playing games with the powers that be. Unfortunately one game – his demand for an assistant means he's lumbered with Hafez el-Assad, man who very much wants to be an investigator and doesn't agree that Department Q is the pits. When he finds something in the file on the disappearance of politician Merete Lynggaard, Mørck finds himself actually investigating something.

Alternating the viewpoints between the investigation and Lynnggaard in captivity brings an immediacy to the search. Whilst investigators have no idea if she is alive or dead, the reader knows she is, knows her state of mind, and knows her abductors are nearby.

With a clearer viewpoint of this concept there are obvious differences here – Lynggaard isn't being held as a sex slave or as a plaything of a nutter, but the reason she is being held isn't clear. And the cruelty and dispassionate behaviour of her abductors is staggering, uncomfortably so. As is the distress and the worry that everyone has for the brother she's left out in the real world. Badly equipped to handle it, he has an acquired brain injury as a result of the car accident that killed their parents when they were children. His suffering is as palpable as hers.

Aside from the difference that's now obvious – that this isn't an opportunistic tale of a woman in a basement after all, and add in the great characters of the investigators and this is really a strong opening book. The grumpiness of Mørck and the intelligence and compassion of Assad make them a great team. Having said that, grumpiness isn't the defining quality of Mørck when you're paying attention – there's a lot more to this story than greets the initial eye.

I have no explanation at all as to why I didn't see that the first time around, but I'm profoundly relieved that I had the sense to leave MERCY in the pile – knowing there was something wrong with my initial reaction but not able to articulate it.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

At first the prisoner scratches at the walls until her fingers bleed. But there is no escaping the room. With no way of measuring time, her days, weeks, months go unrecorded. She vows not go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. She will die first. 

Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck’s been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead. Everyone says it’s a waste of time. He thinks they’re right. 

The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy. It says the prisoner’s torture will only end when she answers one simple question. It is one she has asked herself a million times: 

WHY is this happening?

Review Review - MERCY, Jussi Adler-Olsen
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Blog Currently Reading - Mercy, Jussi Adler-Olsen (aka The Keeper of Lost Causes)
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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