Sunday, July 14, 2013
1126. The Absent One
Jussi Adler-Olsen's "The Absent One" is not the first "Department Q Novel". Events take place in Denmark with most of the action occurring in Copenhagen and surrounding areas. Carl Morck is a Detective for Copenhagen's Unsolved Murder Cases Unit, the Eponymous, Department Q. Although the author has written previous books in this series featuring this Detective and associated supporting characters (but different cases), this was the first book about Detective Morck that I picked up to read.
Detective Morck works with very minimum resources -- he has only a staff of two. An overeager assistant of Middle Eastern descent and heritage who is not a full-fledged detective and a Secretary who finished the Police Academy but flanked out as a Police Officer, yet is highly organized. With these impediments in mind, a case lands on Detective Morck's desk about a twenty year old murder of a brother and sister. What becomes immediately apparent is that even though there is someone in jail serving time for this crime, he might not be the person who committed the murders, and might have been murdered or set-up to take the fall. Involved in this conspiracy are some of Denmark's most influential business people and a homeless woman seen wandering the streets of Copenhagen day and night in different outfits, sometimes dressed nicely, sometimes dressed in rags, called Kimmie. She has something in common with the businessmen who are trying -- or have tried -- to cover the twenty year old murder.
In some ways, this book is similar in themes with Steig Larsson's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". It discusses themes of social strata, the morals (or sometimes lack thereof) of upper society, the differentiation of people based on their upbringing and schooling. Does this social stratification, and the fact that Detective Morck's assistant is from the Middle-East play a role in the way he handles this case? That's for every individual reader of this book to decide. Personally, I enjoyed the interplay of the morality in this novel against the foreign (to me) culture. Morals are universal. Good and Evil, and the Great, Wide, GREY in between, should be universal to all cultures, however, the way that each culture approaches them differs, and that interplay made this book very interesting.
Two things threw me off about this book. It is sold as a somewhat "humorous" or "funny" novel. I did not find any of the antics humorous. It's possible that my understanding of the Danish culture prevented me from enjoying the humor. Secondly, some of the translation seemed broken, like words were jumbled. Then again, it's possible that the author's writing itself is what is jumbled, and it comes out across that way in the translation.
Because of these two things, I can only give this book three and a half stars. I did enjoy the story. And I recommend it. Maybe others, will find the humor I missed.