Crime Fiction


The Department Q novels – Jussi Adler-Olsen

Cold cases in Copenhagen
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I joined Oundle Library's Crime Fiction Book Group when it was first set up and am greatly enjoying it. I like reading foreign fiction, be it crime or other, so my first attempt will be to look at the Department Q novels by the Danish author, Jussi Adler-Olsen.

The books all deal with the work of Department Q, the cold case unit of Copenhagen Police. Aptly, for a unit called Department Q, it is situated in the basement of the Copenhagen Central Police Station, which according to one character in one of the books resembles a fortress. If you have ever stood outside it, you might well agree.

The main characters in the department are the boss, inspector (and he rises in rank through the series) Carl Mørck, his assistant Assad, a maybe Syrian or other Middle Eastern refugee and possibly a previous secret service policeman, or maybe not, hard to tell. And then there is Rose, the secretary and assistant. Mørck and Rose are both abrasive and, Mørck in particular, pretty unpleasant. Assad has hidden depths, which he hides very well under a pretence of not being able to speak or understand Danish properly. And I think it is a pretence, very handy at times, pretending not to understand. There are of course lots of other recurring characters in the books.

I have read several of the books in the series, the latest being “Buried”. Not all have been an unalloyed pleasure. This book’s main themes are murder, criminal activities of foreign gangs in Copenhagen and a “run for your life” scenario by the main character, Marco. The book is interesting, exciting in places, well written, but at 500 pages, a tad too long. I can recommend it, though.

Others I have read are “The Keeper of Lost Causes”, which was very good, “Guilt”, which was exciting, but very unpleasant. And “The Hanging Girl” which was pretty good, set on a Danish island in the Baltic.

The first four books in the series have been made into films, which were shown on BBC4 last year. All were excellent, story-wise pretty close to the books, but the characters of Mørck and Rose were both much less abrasive, more thoughtful, but still equally effective. I would gladly watch more of them. They are Danish films and therefore subtitled.

So, if you like your crime fiction rather graphic, I would recommend this author. It is worth noting that several of the books have been published with different titles, so read the synopsis carefully to avoid borrowing the same book again thinking it is a new one.

Olsen had also written books with other subjects than Department Q. I have not read them yet but am on the lookout.