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It is August in the desert once again. The longest hottest month of the year. What better time for a visit to Denmark in the company of Jussi Adler-Olsen's characters?

Jussi Adler-Olsen 2012
Jussi Adler Olsen remains one of my favorite authors today, as he was when I first read his work, The Keeper of Lost Causes, the opening novel in his series centered around the cold case unit of the Copenhagen Police Department.

Adler-Olsen is a mutli-talented writer, raised by a father who, in his work as a sexologist, treated patients at multiple mental institutions in Denmark, taking his family with him. This early exposure to the

mentally disabled people and the sometimes raving mad has of course had a great influence on my life and on my writing. Through my exciting and also very happy childhood I learned of the duality of Mankind - how bad and evil can live so well together in every person and especially how society can influence which part of the human being is dominate its actions.

- Shots: Crime & Thriller eZine

He uses this knowledge in creating all of the characters in his work. And his subject matter puts him at the forefront of Danish crime novelists.
It is, accordingly, no surprise that one of the most highly regarded and bestselling Danish crime writers, Jussi Adler-Olsen, tackles precisely these issues - and in uncompromising terms. His edgy novels deal with corrupt individuals, social outsiders, manipulative psychopaths, and all of this strips away the fairy-tale varnish that has been Denmark's prerequisite since the nineteenth century.

Barry Forshaw
Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, page 162

From my diary on his second book, The Absent One, comes this summary of the first book:
In brief, The Keeper of Lost Causes introduces us to Carl Mørck, a Copenhagen detective just returning to work after a shoot out at a crime scene left him with a bullet graze but killed another member of his team and paralyzed a third. Superficially he is the typical rebellious, brilliant and troubled Scandinavian detective that we have come to expect in this genre. Exiled to the basement to handle cold cases, he is assigned an assistant, Hafez el-Assad, who is supposed to clean the basement, make coffee and serve as Carl's driver. The first tentative steps in the relationship between the two men is a source of levity that balances a very grim investigation.

The disappearance of a member of the Danish legislature, Merete Llynggaard, five years earlier is the first case the two men take on. The story is begun from two very different perspectives, that of Carl Mørck and that of the missing woman from five years ago. And as we follow both narratives, Adler-Olsen examines corruption in Danish politics and government.

Monday Murder Mystery: The Absent One

That book has now become a film set for release on October 3, 2013. I don't know when it will make it to the US, but here is the trailer:

His second novel in the ten book series was The Absent One, in which Mørck and Hassad are joined by Rose Knudsen, a woman who completed the police academy training but flunked out after failing her driving test. The Absent One dealt with a conspiracy of wealthy thrill seekers armed in the fearless confidence that their great wealth put them above the law. You can find more on this novel here.

Perhaps it should come as no great surprise that after dealing with politics and then money, Adler-Olsen turns to religion as the background for A Conspiracy of Faith.

The Glass Key award winner takes on the tale of a serial killer targeting the children of members of reclusive religious sects. In the Prologue we meet two young boys who are bound and gagged in a boathouse but manage to scratch a message in blood to send out in a bottle in the hope of rescue.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, the basement refuge of Mørck and his crew has turned out to contain asbestos, which must be cleared in accordance with bureaucratic regulations. The squad is working on an apparent arson case before receiving the bottled message from Scotland where it had washed ashore some years before. Mørck's ex-wife is once again threatening to return home, where his paralyzed partner, Hardy, resides in his living room. Assad seems to be even crazier than before, and Rose, in a huff, disappears to be replaced by her twin sister Ysla:

He gawped as a person came toward him looking like a housewife who had just stocked up on duty-frees from the ferries that used to ply the Øresund to Sweden. The high-heeled shoes, the pleated tartan skirt, and the garish shopping cart she dragged in her wake all screamed the fifties more than the fifties probably ever did themselves. And at the upper extremity of this gangling individual was a clone of Rose’s head topped with the neatest peroxide perm imaginable. It was like suddenly being in a film with Doris Day and not knowing how to get out.

Adler-Olsen, Jussi (2013-05-28). A Conspiracy of Faith (Department Q) (pp. 83-84). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

While the team struggles to decipher the message, the serial killer moves on to a new target. A large family of devout members of the Mother of God church are carefully cultivated by our killer so he can gain access to the children.

He underestimates the power of women, though. Not the first man to do so, but he especially infuriates a woman with whom he slept, and then scorned. And one should always beware of a mother afraid and angry at the same time. His own wife, whom he thought safely at home with his son, and completely under his control, does some snooping into his private files even though she had been strongly discouraged from doing so.

Once again, Jussi Adler-Olsen relieves the tension of a haunting suspenseful murder investigation with the humor and kindness of the members of Department Q. Adler-Olsen slowly reveals more of Assad's history as well as Mørck's. Their partnership is a treasure trove of humor and compassion. It is almost like there are two novels here, one of the good and one of the evil. They intertwine and interact very much like the traits do within the individual.

Everyone has a story, reasons why they are who they are, and why the good or evil is dominant at any given time. Sometimes it is found in their past and sometimes it is in the society in which they live. Adler-Olsen is a master teller of these tales.

So, we started with politics, money, and now religion. Next up: sex. The Purity of Vengeance is to be released in the states on December 31, 2013 and will deal with a 1950s movement in Denmark to sterilize wayward girls, a brothel owner who goes missing in the 80s and new evidence in the case that sent Carl to Department Q in The Keeper of Lost Causes.

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