MERCY by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Published by Penguin.

This weekend just gone, I wasn’t really around at home.

Okay, so on Saturday I went to visit my beautiful new-born niece and shared a nice lunch with the family but, when we returned home, I wasn’t really there again.

The dishes piled in the sink, the garden didn’t get the weeding it had been promised all week, the vacuum cleaner sat idle and the car wanted to hide itself from the boss today – it was that unclean.  But I don’t think my family hold me totally to blame for my lack of activity for a few days – they know who was responsible for stealing me away and his name’s on the book jacket above.

With this, MERCY, the first of a new series of Scandinavian crime novels featuring Denmark Deputy Detective Superintendent Carl Morck, Adler-Olsen has plainly staked a claim on the crime fiction bestseller lists.

Morck is a great character and, yes he’s damaged like all great crime detectives, and , yes there’s backstory and history of prior cases that haunt him, like all great crime fiction heroes, but he’s a really interesting and likeable new name to add to that growing list.  An earlier case has left him with both physical and mental scars from a shooting, which left one of his colleagues, Anker, dead and another, Hardy, paralysed in hospital and asking to be put out of his misery, and his superiors don’t really know what to do with him.  Until, that is, they are given the opportunity to side-line Morck into a department of just two, him and a clerical assistant, Assard, as Department Q to work on cold cases.

Assard chooses, much by chance, a case from 2002 (the book is based in 2007) of a missing woman, Merette Lynggaard, last seen on a ferry with her younger mute brother.

We know straight away that Merette may well not be dead, as many believe, and that she is being held captive from 2002 onwards in an empty warehouse-like building, given food and essentials but with no idea why she is being held captive and by whom.

I found the plot to be fast moving and surprise-laden throughout and moments of Merette’s being held hostage are, on more than one occasion, very grueling but without resorting to person to person torture.  This capture and imprisonment is not a SAW movie, but the tension racks up much more viable and, therefore at time, unbearable moments of fearing just what is about to potentially happen to characters that I genuinely cared about.

Morck himself is a great character, a little Wallander-esque I felt at times, but that’s certainly no bad thing.

There’s always a danger when genres become very popular that the quality may suffer as a result of ‘jumping on the wagon’ by similar books/authors, but this is incredibly worthy of joining the very best of Scandinavian crime fiction and the Department Q series deserves great success if this first novel is an indication of its quality.

Keith B Walters

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2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

2 responses to “MERCY by Jussi Adler-Olsen

  1. Ah, at last a blog I can comment on (Blogger commenting is down again, I hope causing another tranche of bloggers to move to WordPress as happened a couple of weeks ago). I too loved this book – I read lots and lots of crime fiction including as much translated as possible (that is not historical or slasher-serial killer) and I think Mercy is special. It reminded me of Sjowall and Wahloo in many ways, though it is early days yet.

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