Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The protagonist in The Keeper of Lost Causes, by the greatly acclaimed Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen, is detective Carl Mörch. This is one of those characters that once a reader meets he can never forget, because of how they really are: eccentric, moody, peculiar, short-tempered, with issues with authority etc; but on the other hand: faithful to friends, stubborn, all-heartily devoted to what they do, if they are not in a lazy bastardly mood that is.
     And it’s exactly like that, like a lazy annoying bastard, with serious psychological problems that Carl first appears in the eyes of the reader. He’s just come back to work, after surviving a lethal trap with just a wound on the head, while a couple of his buddies haven’t been so lucky. The fist one died on the spot, while the second is hardly alive and is kept at a catatonic state in the hospital. Carl feels responsible in a big way for what happened. If he had drawn out his gun fast enough, if he got a shot on their assailant, things would be different. But he didn’t, and now he has to live with the consequences of his actions; consequences that turn out to be quite hard to bear, since right now he seems to walk through the paths of everyday life utterly alone, something that doesn’t really help him escape his dark thoughts.
     Carl is one of those guys who can more easily create enemies than friends. The people who really like him are just a few, and they get less by the minute, and so it comes as no surprise that some people in the Copenhagen police are looking hard to find a way to get rid of him. They cannot really fire him, since he’s considered a hero, so with no other options left, they give him a promotion and name him head of a new police unit, just created for political reasons, which will have as its sole mission to investigate cold cases. He accepts this so-called promotion half-heartily and in a kind of resigned way, as he thinks that, well, he could just as well spend his time doing absolutely nothing. However, as time goes by, and the cases start piling in his newly created underground office, his mood begins to change. Without allowing his bosses a moment of peace, since he really loves to speak his mind out and stick it in their noses, he slowly starts to find his way into this new world they created for him. And, as it turns out, it’s a more exciting world than he expected. The first case that he decides to re-open, with the valuable help of his idiosyncratic assistant Hafez el-Assad, is the one concerning the suicide of a young and beautiful politician, Merete Lynggaard, from five years before. As a high profile case it attracted a lot of attention both from the police and the media back then, however sooner or later it had to be dropped, since her body has never been discovered. At the time there was talk about her being murdered and Carl thinks that that just might be true. Thus he decides to run an investigation of his own, loosely based on the findings of his colleagues. The more he investigates the more he comes to realize that the job done back in the day was less than perfect; the morons did almost everything wrong. Now it’s up to him to get things right at last. In the meantime, the very same people who blew up that case, are now investigating a murder, and he’s the one, the outsider, who points them to the direction they have to follow, while at the same time he’s also trying to cope with the demands of his estranged wife, a hugely untalented woman who considers herself a painter, and her disobedient son, whom she neglected to take with her when she left.
     This is an extremely well written novel, with a great plot and some amazingly crafted characters, which deserves to be a read by anyone who considers himself a crime fiction fan. The author has created some unique heroes: people with as sense of humor and people who love to hate; with psychological issues and outstanding endurance; with dark secrets and awful unuttered truths; people who struggle to live and who fight to die; everyday people, with their weaknesses and their flaws, with their problems and their unavoidable pettiness.
     The book comes out in the U.S. on the 23rd of August

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