June 2011

Jussi Alder-Olsen - Mercy

"Alder-Olsen will have a healthy amount of followers in a very short time."

Merete Lynggaard is a woman devoted to two things: her career and her brother who she keeps secret from the rest of the world. Neither cross the other. Her brother was severely mentally handicapped through a car accident involving her parents who both died at the scene. Since then, she has mothered him. When going away on holiday, Merete disappears whilst travelling on the ferry. She is never seen again.

Five years later Carl Morck has been 'promoted', but in his eyes demoted to a newly christened 'Department Q'. His crime: to survive a bullet that almost took his life, surviving one of his colleagues whilst another languishes in a hospital, no longer able to move his body. Deep in the basement of the police station, Carl has been teamed up with Assad, a man from another country whose residency in Denmark people could say was dubious to say the least.

Getting Assad to clean and fetch, Carl eventually picks up one of the case files: Merete Lynggaard. As Carl wends his way through a case that has gathered dust in more ways than one he uncovers police inconsistencies and laziness of breath-taking proportions. It is then that he begins to come to the horrifying realisation that some people can never escape their past and that, as Carl will testify, the past has a nasty habit of sneaking up behind you and biting you very hard.

Amongst all the 'Scandanavian' crime novels that seem to be sweeping the globe at the moment, 'Mercy' stands a good head and shoulders above some others that have recently been translated. For one, the story is extremely gripping from the outset, especially so, as the story flicks from 2002 to 2007 seamlessly and without confusion. Alder-Olsen tells Marete's story alongside that of Carl's story and investigation, building the tension (pardon the pun) as Marete languishes in a pressure chamber. The fact she has been in this one room for five years is enough to horrify and freak anyone out, but the author simply gives the facts rather than dwells on the horrific nature of the crime.

The other pull in the novel is Carl Morck himself who by turns can be crass as well as sensitive. His only hang up is that he survived an armed attack that took down both his partners. But for us, it can only be welcomed as Carl is now partnered without any notice or ceremony with Assad, a diamond in the rough who I felt was the most intriguing character in the book. Assad is a resourceful man who had many fingers in different pies and who 'knew people who could get things done without too many questions being asked'. I thought he was brilliant and I look forward to seeing the development of Assad in future novels.

Overall, this was a book that required a lot of my time as the plot propelled me towards the end. The solution, for me wasn't unexpected but I did not feel deflated as the story itself engulfed me so much.

Certainly one to read and I believe Mr. Alder-Olsen will have a healthy amount of followers in a very short time.

Reviewed by: C.S.

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