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The Keeper of Lost Causes: Department Q    by Jussi Adler-Olsen order for
Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Keeper of Lost Causes (translated from the Danish by Tïina Nunnally) opens the quirky Department Q mystery series by Scandinavian author Jussi Adler-Olsen. It introduces a homicide detective, whose competence is only exceeded by his acerbic relations with his peers. He shares his home with his stepson Jesper and gay lodger Morten.

Carl Mørck has struggled with survivor guilt and depression after a shooting left one officer dead and another, Hardy, a paraplegic (both were also his friends). Carl muses that he lost the fire inside him in the incident - 'the flame that was absolutely essential for a detective in the homicide division of the Copenhagen Police.'

Carl's boss puts him in charge of the new Department Q, responsible for the coldest cases. He is banished to the basement with only one assistant (an immigrant, Assad, whose intriguing background will no doubt be revealed over time). Carl's boss set up Department Q in order to increase his overall budget and to keep the detective away from his outraged peers.

At first, Carl has no intention of investigating anything - he plans to spend his days napping and playing Spider Solitaire. But gradually, Assad's persistence pulls him into the case of a rising female politician (Merete Lynggaard), who disappeared five years before and was believed to have drowned after falling overboard from a ship.

The story alternates between Carl and Assad's digging; Merete Lynggaard's back story (her political success and care for her younger brother Uffe, brain damaged in the childhood accident that also killed their parents); and the plight of an imprisoned woman, who's determined not to let her captors' torture break her. Each year they turn the lights permanently on or off and increase the air pressure in her prison.

Of course, Carl's meticulous and stubborn police work (with Assad's able help) does eventually solve the case, but not before the duo face terrible danger and almost die at the hands of fanatics fueled by hatred. The series is an odd yet effective mixture of horrific thriller (the cold cases) and amusing cozy (Carl and Assad's antics). Highly recommended!

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