Since Smilla made the bestseller list with her sense of snow many years ago, not many Danish thrillers have been made available in English. The publication of the first book in Jussi Adler-Olsen's Department Q series, ably translated by Tiina Nunnally, is cause for celebration.
Carl Morck, a caustic, prickly detective, is returning to work after a shooting in which one of his colleagues was killed and another paralyzed. His superiors, tired of his cynical sniping, put him in charge of a new department for hopeless cases, one located in a disused basement office and staffed by a single inexperienced assistant. There the disgruntled Carl's interest is snagged by the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard, a talented politician who vanished without a trace five years earlier. In alternating chapters, we learn what happened to Lynggaard as Carl begins to piece together clues with the help of his comically hapless assistant, Assad.
The prologue—in which a nameless woman struggles to escape a concrete cell—suggests the book we're about to read will be a grim affair, but it has surprisingly lighthearted moments. Lynggaard is a tough, resourceful woman who refuses to be defeated, Carl is an endearing if grumpy hero, and his Syrian sidekick Assad, who is a terrible driver and a fabulous cook, turns out to have hidden depths.
This winner of the Glass Key, Scandinavia's top prize for crime fiction, adds welcome variety to the Nordic mysteries on our shelves. Readers will be looking forward to the further investigations of Department Q.