Great news for fans who feared that the formula that shot Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy to the top of international bestseller lists couldn’t be cloned: a big, leisurely Scandinavian thriller with dark hints of conspiracy, clunky descriptions, dozens of plot complications and the world’s most unnuanced villains.
Five years after Danish stateswoman Merete Lynggaard vanished without a trace from a ferry crossing, Carl Mørck takes it upon himself to reopen the case. Despite the possible presence of an eyewitness, Merete’s unreachably brain-damaged younger brother Uffe, the mystery has long been dismissed as unsolvable by the Copenhagen police, who think Merete must simply have slipped off the boat for reasons unknown. But Carl’s in an unusually strong position to pick it up again. Banished to Department Q, his own personal cold-case unit, after a shooting left one of his best friends dead, another paralyzed and Carl himself with an incapacitating case of survivor’s guilt and rage, he can choose his cases, control his budget and call on police departments throughout Denmark for help. And he’ll need plenty of help, because the disappearance of Merete, who against all odds is still alive, held captive by a sociopathic family mad for revenge against the inoffensive minister, is only one of the problems he’ll face. His colleagues produce painful new leads on the shooting that annihilated his own team; he’s determined to put the moves on police crisis counselor Mona Ibsen, whose agenda emphatically doesn’t include his romantic overtures; and he can’t help growing suspicious of his remarkably talented new assistant, especially since he bears the name Hafez al-Assad. The trail to the truth is filled with authentically tedious loose ends and dead ends; the climactic confrontation with the monstrous malefactors is cathartically violent; and the final scene is unexpectedly touching.
The English-language success of Adler-Olsen’s synthetic but sharply calculated debut, already a publishing phenomenon in Germany, Austria and its native Denmark, seems so assured that resistance would be futile.