Carl Mørck drew me in. The veteran homicide detective, having barely surviving an attack that killed one colleague and left another paralyzed, is designated to lead the newly created Department Q to investigate, in the words of his superior, “cases that have been shelved, but are of particular interest to the public welfare”. He would have found it easier to be fired than to deal with unresolved, long ago, crimes that have the least priority within the police services.
As I read the book I was reminded of character after character from other mysteries I have appreciated.
Department Q brought to mind the new Open-Unsolved Cases department to which Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch is assigned after coming out of retirement.
Mørck is struggling to deal with his responsibility in the attack. Should he have reacted differently haunts his thoughts. I thought of Chief Inspector Gamache in Louise Penny’s latest books caught up in doubt and guilt over his actions in the battle that left colleagues dead and injured.
It is hard for Mørck to resist dark regrets when his partner, Hardy Henningsen, is lying paralyzed in a hospital bed wanting his friend to end his life. In an effort to convince his colleague that life still has meaning he pulls him into the investigation. Hardy brought to mind criminalist Lincoln Rhymes in Jeffery Deaver’s books staying alive because he can participate in and even lead investigations from his specially designed wheelchair.
Having been actually cast down into the basement Mørck is ready to coast along until retirement. In Craig Johnson’s Junkyard Dogs a deputy, Santiago Saizarbitoria, has lost his spirit to be a police officer though physically recovered from a bullet wound. Saizarbitoria has “bullet fever”.
Mørck is gradually brought out of his lethargy by one of the most unique assistants in crime fiction. Assad is to take care of cleaning and administrative needs in the one man Department Q but the Syrian immigrant has a boundless energy and enthusiasm that sets him motivating Mørck to do his job. While totally different in background and appearance Assad reminded me of Archie Goodwin cajoling and pushing Nero Wolfe to carry out investigations.
Shamed into reading the file of beautiful politician Merete Lynggard missing for the past 5 years since disappearing on a ferry traveling from Denmark to Germany Mørck becomes intrigued and begins to investigate the file.
When Mørck finds a significant flaw in the past investigation he is revitalized and pursues the investigation with vigor and determination. Finding the flaw is a moment I have experienced in some court cases. You read and work and talk and think and review. It is a special thrill when you find the piece of evidence or case authority that will win the case.
I found myself as eager as Mørck to check out the next thread in the investigation. The book moved ever more swiftly to a striking and memorable conclusion. It is a strong candidate for Bill’s Best of 2011.
I will be buying the next in the series as soon as it makes its way to Western Canada. (Oct. 30/11)