As many of you already know, WordFest has a volunteer reading program that invites the public to review books that are submitted to the Festival. One of our long time reviewers and author of the following review suggested we post some of these online for our blog readers, and we thought this was a great idea! Below is a review of The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Enjoy!
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Jussi Adler-Olsen is a very popular Scandinavian crime writer. Just like Stieg Larsson. And he writes very compelling stories. Just like Stieg Larsson. Even the cover of his first English translation looks just like the ones of Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. But that’s where the similarities end.
The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first in a series that introduces some very unique characters, characters that feel very real to me-not as extraordinary as the ones Stieg Larsson created (and that’s the last time I mention his name) but probably much more real and relatable for the reader.
I like Carl Mørck, an excellent investigator with the Kopenhagan police force, who has just returned to his jobs a couple of months after an ill-fated incident that left one of his colleagues dead and another one severely injured. We meet Carl at a low-point in his life, he’s lost his drive and barely manages to get out of bed in the morning. He gets on everyone’s nerves and so his superiors give him a new position to investigate cold cases and banish him in an isolated basement office with boxes of dusty files. As a reader, I can feel his emotional pain and hope that he can find a spark again to bring him back to life.
And this spark comes in the form of his new assistant, Syrian immigrant Assad. I’m quite intrigued by the mystery surrounding him-and so is Carl. Not only is Assad rather mysterious, he is also the source for some subtle and sometimes dark humor in this story. I love my crime fiction with a good dose of humor! Assad is also the one who eventually gets Carl going to look into one of the old cases: the disappearance of a brilliant young politician 5 years ago.
The reader gets to know the kidnapped Merete through flashbacks. Adler-Olsen alternates chapters between her suffering and Carl’s investigation. Nice way to create suspense. It builds slowly but inevitably draws the reader in. I had a hard time to discipline myself not to peek at the last pages of the book. Despite the slow beginning the book is quite a page-turner and I finished it within a couple of days.
The crime is a horrific one, but fortunately for me, it does not get very bloody or gruesome. The story focuses on the investigation and on the emotional struggle the kidnapped Merete fights to stay alive and sane. Between the lines, there is enough room to learn a bit about Danish politics as well which was very welcome. I don’t know much about Denmark and I would have liked to learn even more about the country.
All in all, a very suspenseful and thoughtfully written crime novel. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment and am impatiently waiting for it’s translation. I’m wondering if I can get my hands on a British edition maybe a bit faster…
Reviewed by Beatrix Downton