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The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel    by Jussi Adler-Olsen order for
Purity of Vengeance
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Purity of Vengeance (translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken) is the fourth (following A Conspiracy of Faith) in Jussi Adler-Olsen's Scandinavian Department Q cold case mystery series.

In Copenhagen, stubborn and unpopular Detective Carl Mørck has been put in charge of Department Q, responsible for the coldest cases. He has two assistants, the rather mysterious immigrant Assad and thorny secretary Rose Knudsen. They work out of a basement office. Carl still struggles with guilt and depression after a shooting that left one friend dead and the other (Hardy) a paraplegic. After reluctantly consulting psychologist Mona Ibsen, he fell hard for her and they are now in a relationship.

Adler-Olsen always centers his cold case mysteries on harsh topics. This time, he addresses the abuse of disadvantaged, pregnant young women by those who should be most concerned to protect them. The villains of the case? A group of very conservative physicians, led by the charismatic Curt Wad, who practiced cleansing of such girls in 1950s Denmark by sterilizing them without their consent. One such victim was Nete Hermansen. Wad later became leader of the Purity Party.

The story moves back and forth in time (sometimes confusingly) to reveal Nete horrifically mistreated as a young woman. Though for a time it seemed she might be able to move on, her sole goal in life eventually became a crusade for vengeance against all who had wronged her. While this plotline develops, there's new evidence in the case that sent Carl to Department Q and there's something strange going on with Assad. The author also injects humor into the story via Carl's dealings with his ex-wife Rigga and a misunderstanding with Mona.

The modern tale begins in 2010 with an acid attack on the owner of an escort service, sister of a colleague of Carl's. Rose finds a similar case in 1987 Copenhagen and nags Carl to work on it, indignant that violence against such women gets little attention. As always, Carl's assistants steadily reel him in to an investigation that turns up many more deaths, and even more victims. He and his team circle in on Nete, but will they be in time?

I very much enjoy these quirky Department Q mysteries and appreciate the issues they address. While I found Purity of Vengeance rather overcomplicated, it's well worth reading, if only for the very clever twist of an ending.

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