The Keeper of Lost Causes

By Jussi Adler-Olsen; translated by Lisa Hartford

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Dutton, 2011

Genres: Mystery, police procedural, Scandinavian noir, suspense, thriller, crime thriller

Series: Department Q; 1

ISBN: 9780525952480

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 396

Setting: Copenhagen, Denmark

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives, until two of his team members were shot while he was with them.  Carl never even drew his weapon and now he is ridden with guilt and even more surly than he used to be.  A promotion was the last thing he expected, but it was the easiest way for the department heads to get him out of everyone’s presence.  Hidden in the basement, Carl figures he’ll spend the rest of his career sleeping and surfing the internet, until one of the cold cases he’s now in charge of actually peaks his interest.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: While the beginning is a bit slower than the rest, this is a very fast paced book; the pacing increases as the story progresses and the last third practically flies.

Characterization: The story is told in third person from both Merete (the victim) and Carl’s perspectives.  The most important secondary character is Carl’s new assistant, Assad.

Frame: The book begins with a prologue told through Merete’s perspective.  She is being held in a dark cell against her will, but she is determined to get out someday.  This determination sets the frame for the book.

Story line: An intriguing and suspenseful mystery with realistic, deeply flawed characters.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Police — Denmark — Fiction.

Missing persons — Investigation — Fiction.

Copenhagen (Denmark) — Fiction.

Suspense fiction.

Mystery fiction.

Similar authors:

Peter Høeg

Stieg Larrson

Henning Mankell

Jo Nesbø

Personal notes:  This was a great story with an incredibly tight, suspenseful ending.  I loved how flawed the characters were and deeply enjoyed the interactions between Assad and Carl.  I will definitely be looking out for the next in this series when it comes out in the US.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – Danes, a mute victim of a brain injury, quadriplegic  victim of a gunshot wound,  Syrian

Published in Denmark with the title Kvinden I Buret (which translates into English as The Woman in the Cage).

This book was originally published with the title Mercy in Great Britain.

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s website


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