Friday, July 26, 2013

Book 91: The Absent One

I've really liked both of the Jussi Adler-Olsen novels I've read so far.  While a lot of mystery novels clue the readers in on more things more quickly than their detectives, Adler-Olsen takes a whole different approach here.  There is no question in this novel about who committed the crimes.  There may be some questions in the middle about other things that are slowly uncovered, but instead the tension comes from wondering when the various parties will figure things out, and more importantly, when and if they will be able to prove anything.  His previous novel also had a slightly different set up than the normal mystery thriller though in that case the connection was with the victim, and the reader too was left wondering who was behind the crime.
This novel takes place only a few months after the case from The Keeper of Lost Causes.  Carl's old partner is still in the hospital as a result of the shooting that led to Carl's placement in the Q Department, and he has suggested that something may have been fishy about that afternoon's events.  While Carl wonders about this, he doesn't investigate or act on it, instead focusing on a case file that has mysteriously appeared on his desk.  While Carl's supposed to handle cold cases, this file refers to a shut case.  Two siblings were found beaten to death in a summer cabin, and the perpetrator turned himself in nine years later.  During the original investigation, the perpetrator was part of a gang of teens from a boarding school, and the entire gang was questioned at one point.  The guy who took the fall was the least well off of the group but the rest were rich and privileged, and are now influential members of society.  Still, Carl's interest is peaked, and he begins to pursue some leads until he launches a whole new investigation, and discovers that this could very well solve several other cases on his desk.
Some chapters are told from the perspectives of the gang members, the three remaining members being completely despicable and horrible people.  There is absolutely no doubt of their involvement in this crime or several others like it.  Of the other former gang members one is dead, and the last one, Kimmie, who was also the only woman, is homeless and living on the street.  It becomes obvious that she is the key to this because the other three men fear her, and she is obviously plotting something against them.  Kimmie is an interesting character because she is very cunning yet also mentally unstable; she was an important part of the gang and yet parted ways with them and actively works for their downfall.  The novel slowly reveals exactly what happened in the gang to lead them to this moment.
When the men aren't engaging in horrible crimes against humans, they enjoy hunting so there are some graphic descriptions of cruelty against animals (because naturally, they don't so much enjoy hunting as killing exotic animals - I'm not sure how they can even call it hunting when the animal is released near them into an unknown environment about two minutes before the "hunters" show up ... at that point, you're not showing off your tracking skills because it's a disoriented and confused animal no matter how vicious or challenging it may be in its normal habitat).
Overall, I liked this one but I preferred The Keeper of Lost Causes.  This one was darker, and the scenes between Carl and Assad weren't quite as funny.  Adler-Olsen introduces one new member to Department Q in this one, a new administrative helper, who adds yet another level of dysfunction to the team.  I'm curious to see what happens in the next novel in the series, and hope they don't become too much darker as they go.  It was nice to read a Scandinavian mystery with some humor, even if the case itself was dark.

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