Friday, 24 May 2013

Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen | Scandinavian noir

One of the most exciting "new" voices of Scandinavian crime fiction is definitely the Danish Jussi Adler-Olsen. A publisher by profession, he knows what is demanded of really good crime literature, and he delivers the goods. For me, Adler-Olsen does more than merely follow the genre conventions. He is a magnificent storyteller and he really takes us into the heart of evil. A couple of years ago I read Mercy, book 1 in the "Department Q" series, which was deliciously dark and creepy. In his latest installment, Redemption (Book 3 in the series), we get to see yet another glimpse of true evil. I couldn't get to the end fast enough.

Two brothers are held captive in a boathouse on the Danish coast. One of them manages to write a message in a bottle, and throw the bottle into the ocean. Years later the message resurfaces, and it becomes cold case detective Carl Morck's job to try to decipher the almost obliterated message written in blood. Even though they can only make out a few of the words, there is no doubt in Carl's mind that this is dead serious.

In another part of the country, Mia is waiting for her husband to come home. His work is secret, so she spends most of her time alone with their toddler son. But lately Mia is starting to question the man she married. His controlling nature gives rise to suspicions that maybe he isn't quite what he pretends to be. Mia's decision to investigate for herself turns out to have fatal consequences.

And in the sect the Mother Church, a family with five kids find themselves the object of attention from a potential new member. The man is caring and enigmatic - a great role model for the children and a possible new friend for the parents. All of them remain ignorant as to his real intentions as he circles ever closer to the children.

As the man with countless names, faces and identities pounce on his next victims, only Carl and his team, Assad from Syria and Rose and her sister Yrsa have any chance of tracing him with only the message in the bottle as their starting point. Soon many lives hang in the balance, and time is running out.

What is so interesting about Adler-Olsen's books, is that the past and deep grudges play a great part. We follow not only the investigator and the victims, but also the murderer himself. The dark secrets of his past are rolled up one by one, even as our protagonists remain clueless.

Dark as the book might be, it has comic moments, especially in Assad's broken Danish (or English in this version) and the general office drama. The personal lives of Carl and his assistants are used to add to the suspense, but isn't really a driving force in the novel. A lot of the unresolved personal issues will stay there - to be engaged with again in the next book in the series.

The plotting is masterly done, and it gets to the point where nobody in the novel is in control of events, be it the murderer, the victims or the police. All the events of the novel come to a head towards the end, and as the reader you just have to plunge ahead to find out how in the world this is going to pan out.

Adler-Olsen had me going from the first page to the last. As crime goes, this is the right amount of noir for me. Reviews always say "Move aside Stieg Larsson (or some other crime fiction behemoth), XXX has entered the stage" (or something to that effect). I don't need to say that about Jussi Adler-Olsen. He's in a division of his own (Division Q, that is, hehe).

No comments: