A twisted tale of murder in Denmark


Carl Morck is a troublemaker. As a detective on the homicide squad in the Copenhagen police, his rude behavior caused so much distress among his coworkers that they went out of their way to avoid him. Then he and his two partners were ambushed by an unknown assailant. One of the partners ended up dead, the other paralyzed for life from the neck down. That was when Carl became totally insufferable.

A promotion into the basement

To get Carl out of the way, his bosses grabbed at an opportunity forced on them by the Danish parliament to create a new, cold case department, put him in charge, give him a promotion, and send him down to a cubbyhole in the basement. Alone. The new entity was called Department Q, just as a politician had suggested. Only when Carl continued to make life impossible for the head of the homicide department was he assigned an assistant: an egregiously cheerful man named Assad, an Iraqi immigrant with a mysterious past whom nobody else wanted to work with. In fact, it turns out, Carl’s boss only sent him down to the basement with Carl to get him off his back.

The Absent One (Department Q #2) by Jussi Adler-Olsen @@@@ (4 out of 5)

Together with Asaad, who turned out to be a surprisingly insightful detective, Carl solved the twenty-year-old disappearance of a popular, up-and-coming Danish politician. The feat was so remarkable that now, several months later, a delegation of high-ranking Norwegian police are coming to learn how he pulled it off. To help prepare for this unwelcome event, Carl is assigned a second staff person, a “secretary,” a bossy young woman named Rose who passed through the police academy with flying colors but flunked out because she couldn’t pass the driver’s test. Rose, of course, turns out to be even more difficult to work with than Carl himself.

The plot thickens

Now the file of a case from 1987 has mysteriously landed on Carl’s desk: a double homicide that the police consider solved because the confessed murderer has long been in prison. No one can explain to Carl how or why the file showed up on his desk. Since Carl is afflicted with an overwhelming desire to do the exact opposite of what he’s told to do, he insists on pursuing the case even when his boss, and his bosses’ boss, the chief of police, demand that he set it aside because it has already been solved.

A twisted tale of violence and murder in Denmark

The Absent One tells the fascinating and twisted tale of the widening investigation carried out by the dysfunctional team of Carl, Asaad, and Rose. The book is probably best characterized as a thriller, full of suspense to the end. Naturally, since this is just one in a series of novels about Department Q — the second one, actually — the trio manage to solve the case against great odds. The fun, if it can be called that, lies in the telling. However, reading this novel requires a strong stomach, because it’s full of senseless violence.

About the author

To date, Jussi Adler-Olsen has written six novels in his Department Q series. With a background as a publisher, editor, and nonfiction writer, Adler-Olsen turned to writing fiction in 1997.

For additional reading

Go to Jussi-Adler Olsen’s Department Q thrillers for links to my reviews of the whole series.

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