Review of The Keeper of Lost Causes, By: Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Reviews

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2011)
Pages: 400
Series: Carl Mørck, #1
Setting: Copenhagen, Denmark
Category: Police Procedural

The novel introduces detective Carl Mørck — a talented and dedicated cop who has lost his way. He returns to work after recovering from an injury he incurred on the job that killed one partner and paralyzed the other. Since Carl’s return he has been a thorn in the side of his colleagues who complain about his surly behavior. His sympathetic boss moves him to the newly created Department Q down in the basement. The purpose of Department Q is to focus on crimes of a “bestial nature” that have been shelved for several years.

The vice-chairperson of the Democratic party – Merete Lynggaard– has been missing for five years. She was kidnapped and put in a pressure chamber. A woman put in a cage by captors unknown to her or so she thought. Her case along with many others sit on Carl’s desk untouched. Carl has no plans to do his job. The only thing he does is drink coffee and sleep with his feet kicked up on his desk or surf the web. His new assistant Assad, who cleans his office, brings Merete’s file to his attention. In order to keep his assistant busy Carl has him read over case files just to keep him out of his way. But Assad’s curiosity in Merete’s case is contagious and both men find themselves working on it together. 

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES is a solidly written novel that has politics and human drama. The author shows how the Lynggaard case slowly gets under Carl’s skin. The background info and the events that led up to the beautiful politicians fate is explored deeply. The motive behind it is not really clear until halfway through the novel. It’s revenge and the culprits have an agenda built upon years and years of bitterness and hate.

Reading this book I had no idea how it would end since it’s kind off the beaten track as it seamlessly goes backwards and forward in time. Characters – Carl is a memorable one as well as Assad who is cloaked with mystery. We are told that Carl is good at his job and the author shows it. Alongside Merete’s case, a cyclist is murdered and the police are working it but it’s stalled. Carl shares his unasked for thoughts on the case that eventually moves the investigation further.

After that his opinion is sought after by his boss who acts as the go between Carl and his colleagues who despise him. Carl is good at his job but he has the tendency to point out other people’s flaws and shortcomings to their face and he isn’t always nice about it either. He’s equally rough with uncooperative witnesses. His soon to be ex wife gives him fits with her constant calls asking him to attend her poorly attended gallery showings with her lover who Carl calls all kinds of mean names. The nice side of Carl shows up for his partner who he visits almost daily at the hospital. Carl blames himself and questions his actions that fateful day. It eats at him.

During the missing person investigation it was disappointing to find that the original team dropped the ball. After all this is someone’s life hanging in the balance here. There was missing information not put in the reports along with leads not explored further. But then the police didn’t suspect any foul play and assumed that Merete had drowned. The last place she was seen was with her mute/disabled brother on a ferry.

The book is compulsively readable. The story didn’t have any loopholes. I loved the governmental politics in here and its role in criminal justice and other institutions. The author humanized his characters and  put in a bit of an emotional punch. Some aspects of this story is not very conventional which was refreshing. The characters are well drawn especially Carl and the viewpoints given by both the victim and the detective’s third person point of view kept me turning the pages.  Its 400 page length went by quickly. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series – THE ABSENT ONE when it lands in the US this fall. My grade is a B+. Similar writers or authors I’d recommend: Jo Nesbø.

Source: I bought this when it first came out last year

Other reviews: Bernadette’s at Reactions to Reading, Maxine at Euro Crime and the last one at  Reading Matters plus many, many others

The Author

I love reading crime fiction.

9 Comments

  1. Keishon – I’m so glad you enjoyed this novel! I really agree with you about this being compulsively readable. I found myself very much caught up in the story. I like the interplay between Mørk and Assad, and I like the way we gradually peel away a layer or two of Assad’s character as the story goes on. I liked a lot of other things about this novel as well, but I don’t want to drone on and on. Thanks for reminding me of a real good ‘un.

  2. I loved this book too, I think the only thing that let it down a bit was the ending at the farmhouse. I have read Disgrace (#2) and while it is just as readable, I found it a bit of a disappointment.

  3. I liked this one, too, and I’m glad to hear there’s already a second one! Thanks, Keishon and Maxine.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: A Conspiracy of Faith (Department Q), Jussi Adler-Olsen | Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

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