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The Absent One: Department Q    by Jussi Adler-Olsen order for
Absent One
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Absent One (translated from the Danish by K. E. Semmel) follows The Keeper of Lost Causes as the second in Jussi Adler-Olsen's quirky Department Q series, starring stubborn (more like pigheaded) Detective Carl Mørck in Copenhagen. Carl has struggled with guilt and depression after he survived a shooting that left one friend dead and the other (Hardy) a paraplegic who begs Carl to kill him.

Carl was assigned Department Q, responsible for the coldest cases, with only one assistant (an immigrant, Assad, with a poor grasp of the local language but unusual skills) and a basement office. His boss did this in order to increase the overall department budget and to keep the acerbic detective away from his outraged peers.

However, Carl had a huge - and surprising - success in his first investigation. Now, Norway is sending a police delegation to consult with him. Also, Department Q has been assigned another unwanted resource, thorny secretary Rose Knudsen who had top marks at police academy but failed her driver's test. Of course, Assad likes her.

This second episode opens on a murder - a human being pursued by men who get their kicks out of the hunt and its aftermath. Then readers are introduced to an elusive street person, Kimmie, a relentless huntress in her own right, whose only remaining friend is a junkie, Rat-Tine. Why does Kimmie live on the streets, when it's clear she has plenty of money? And why does she feel the need to switch identities so often?

As Carl and his associates will eventually discover (prompted by clues that mysteriously come their way), it all relates to the vicious murder of a brother and sister twenty years before. The suspects in the case were privileged boarding-school students. One (a scholarship student)confessed and was jailed for life. Kimmie is another, and the remainder are now wealthy and powerful members of the highest stratum of Danish society.

Carl muses, 'This case was like grabbing at quicksilver: poisonous to touch, impossible to hold.' Pressure to give up the investigation, threats, and a bogus assault charge only make him more determined to keep going. As he and Assad search for Kimmie, she has her own plans. Eventually, cycles of abuse and mob violence culminate in an explosive ending in which all the hunters are hunted.

The London Times aptly calls Jussi Adler-Olsen 'The new 'it' boy of Nordic noir.' His new thriller, The Absent One, is just as good as The Keeper of Lost Causes - they share a delightfully ornery lead, quirky sidekicks, a gripping, wrenching storyline, and a conclusion that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Don't miss this astoundingly good new series!

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