The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen – I bought the second in the Carl Morck series to be published in Canada the first time I saw it in a Canadian bookstore two weeks ago. It proved good cruise reading.
Morck remains deeply unhappy that he is still buried in the depths of
’s police HQ in charge of Department Q dealing with cold cold cases. His frustration level is increased when he is assigned a secretary / personal assistant, Rose Knudsen. She had qualified as a police officer but failed her driving test. Wanting to stay in police work she stayed on as an assistant. Morck has not wanted any more staff which comes closer to making Department Q an actual department. Copenhagen
Reluctantly looking for a new file Morck’s attention is grabbed when his original assistant, Assad, finds and brings to his attention a file on his desk that was not actually assigned for his review. It involves the horrific double murder of a brother and sister 20 years ago that was resolved by the confession of a young man. While the file is closed by the police and judicial system there is evidence the killer was part of a gang of wealthy young people who have been attacking people for pleasure.
Its current members are Ditlav Pram, a prominent developer of private hospitals, and Ulrike Jensen, an investment adviser, and Torsten Florin, a designer of women’s clohes. All of them relish the hurting and killing of innocent people. They are a chilling collection of the rich and disaffected.
They had formed their gang while attending a Danish boarding school. Each has problems with their parents and the gang becomes a type of family that could have been inspired by the infamous California Manson family.
Complicating the current activities of the gang is the lurking presence of Kimmie, the sole female member of the gang when they were young. Living on the street and plagued by voices Kimmie haunts the book.
Morck, Assad and Rose start assembling information on the gang. Morck is hardly committed to the investigation when the Chief of Homicide directs he drop the case on instructions from above. For Morck it is the equivalent of a direct order to press ahead. He acknowledges he has a quirk in his personality that when told not to do something he is driven to do it. His father had manipulated Morck on occasion into certain actions by forbidding him from doing them.
A trip to the cabin in which the murders took place turns from the routine when Morck and Assad find the crime scene has been recently altered.
The investigation drives forward as they find more and more bits of information connecting the gang to many cruel crimes.
At the same time we see Kimmie struggling with life and her past. She is one of the most remarkable characters I have read since Lisbeth Salander.
The book explores the heart of darkness of the rich and twisted elite of Danish society. I thought of Leopold and Loeb of the 1930’s
who killed a boy for the experience. Ditlev, Kimmie and their fellow gang members are evil. Chicago
Assad is a far more assertive character in this book. He participates in the questioning of witnesses though he is not a police officer.
Rose is an intriguing assistant. Her efficiency and competence leave Morck unable to find a reason for dismissing her.
Adler-Olsen has vivid descriptions through the book. Describing three private detectives:
“Deep creases at the corners of their mouths indicated a hard life. They were not the kind of lines businessmen earned under the sickly glare of office lights while stacks of paper flowed across their desks during the wee hours of the morning.”
I liked how the members of Department Q cleverly discovered information and connections by their investigative skills. Coincidence and luck are not at the heart of their work.
It is a powerful book though not for the faint of heart. (Sept. 5/12)