Genre: Crime Fiction
Series: #1 in the Department Q series
Publication Date: 2011
Source: Copy provided by publisher through NetGalley. I also received a copy of the UK Edition titled Mercy which is why I posted both covers.
The Short Version:
A troubled Copenhagen detective is assigned to a new department handling special cases and the first is the case a well-known female politician who disappeared off a ferry five years ago.
Why I Read It:
When I first read the email from a publicist at Penguin it sounded like something I would like. I’ve been enjoying reading crime fiction set in interesting locations.
Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck hasn’t been the same since the ambush that killed one of his partners and left the other paralyzed. His bosses decide the best way to avoid dealing with him is to assign him to the newly created “Department Q”. It’s a new unit that is to focus on ‘cases deserving special scrutiny’. To Carl’s bosses it’s a way to get him out of their area and shuffle him off to the basement with a stack of cold cases.
Carl is assigned an assistant named Assad who is a Syrian refugee nearly as mysterious as their cases. The first case they take on is the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard. She was a beautiful Member of Parliament who disappeared five years earlier on a ferry ride to Germany. To the surprise of Carl as much as his superiors, the case turns out to be not nearly as cold as expected and rather than sitting in the basement smoking his days away as a slacker, Carl and his assistant end up tracking leads missed or lost in the original investigation.
Even though I’d figured out some of the mystery partway through the book, it was still tension filled all the way to the end. I think I might have held my breath for the final 100 pages.
The book moves back and forth between Merete’s story beginning in 2002 and Carl’s investigation in 2007. The way it’s told keeps the final outcome in question even though I suspect that crime fiction fans will figure out at least part of it somewhere in the middle. The story moves along and the time lines begin to converge in a way that will make you want to read faster and faster.
I liked the interplay between Carl and Assad. Their relationship as they began to work together provided humorous moments in a story that at times was extremely dark. This is well done without it turning into the ‘witty banter’ that can be so common and overdone in many cases. I’m glad that this is a series (4 books so far published in Denmark) and I look forward to investigating more cases with Carl and Assad.
In addition to the primary case there are additional investigations by Carl’s former teammates that allow for him and Assad to interact with others at Police Headquarters despite their isolated basement office home. Carl’s personal life is almost as messy as his work life. It’s part of the story and adds to the development of Carl’s character without becoming too much of a major detour. His recovery both physically and emotionally from the ambush that left one friend paralyzed and another dead is as much a part of the story as the investigation into Merete’s disappearance.
Despite a couple of places where it goes a bit over the top and throws in an unnecessary roadblock or two just for effect, it’s a very well done psychological thriller. It’s those minor elements that kept this from being a 5 star book but it won’t keep me from eagerly watching for the release date of the next Department Q book. I highly recommend this one.