The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Carl Morck is damaged goods.  He’s just returned to work after a shooting that killed and maimed fellow officers.  Carl knows he’s no longer himself, “the experienced criminal investigator who lived and breathed for his work”.  His colleagues know it too.  He shows up late, insults them, refuses to return phone calls and lets his desk degenerate into chaos.

Carl’s boss, Marcus Jacobsen, likes Carl but is tired of the morale problems he’s creating.  His dilemma is to come up with a solution that won’t bring the union down on him.  Then a member of the Denmark Party successfully passes an amendment to the legislation funding police services.  A new department will be set up to handle “cases deserving special scrutiny.”  Never mind that no one in the police understands what that means, what Jacobsen understands is that Carl Morck would be the perfect person to head the newly formed Department Q.

The next thing Carl knows, he’s sitting alone in a newly painted basement office.  But no amount of paint can hide the fact that he’s been sidelined.  Carl’s okay with that; he can smoke, surf the internet and generally kill time until it’s time to go home.  But then he discovers that the money allocated to Department Q is being siphoned off to pay for more homicide teams.  Homicide teams in offices with great views he’s not invited to join—and anger begins to pull Carl out of his funk.

Just to get up everyone’s nose, he negotiates for an assistant and is assigned the enthusiastic, genial Assad.  The energetic Assad doesn’t understand that Carl isn’t planning to do anything.  He organizes the case files and brings to Carl’s attention the case of Merete Lynggaard, a prominent politician who disappeared without a trace five years ago.  Everyone assumes she’s dead, but Carl Morck’s not so sure.  The facts of the case don’t add up.  And Carl Morck is surprised to find himself using his skills again, even if everyone else in homicide thinks his interest in this case is the final proof he’s a lost cause.

Another solid Scandinavian thriller, this time from Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen.  Carl Morck is an interesting albeit grumpy character, and Assad is the perfect foil.  Real tension builds as they begin to realize the Lynggaard case should never have been abandoned.  Add this series to the ever growing list of books that will appeal to readers of Stieg Larsson.  Highly recommended.

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