Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A claustrophobic (in a good way) story where the tension builds chapter by chapter. Maverick detective Carl Morck's patch covers Copenhagen and beyond as his new role involves solving previously unsolved cases - and one, in particular, catches his attention.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141399966

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I haven't as yet read any of the Swedish crime books which are causing such a stir at the moment so I came to this Danish offering with a completely open mind (I like to think I do that anyway). Billed on the front cover as The No 1 International Bestseller I'm thinking I'm in for a treat...

The Prologue intends to grab the reader's attention right from the first word. I liked that. A girl, or perhaps a woman (we don't know yet) is imprisoned somewhere, barely kept alive in some sort of dark, airless and smelly makeshift prison - but why? And by whom exactly? The story opens in 2007 and we learn that Copenhagen detective Carl is recovering from a near-death experience in the line of police duty. His colleagues were not so lucky. So we see a broken and rather vulnerable man trying to claw his way back to a normal life. Guilt, revenge, anger are perhaps some of the emotions coursing through his veins. His senior colleagues are at a loss as to what to do with him - he's a good copper, after all. The solution is that a fancy new title is invented along with a fancy new department, all for Carl. But will he cope?

Adler-Olsen has a nice, easy style in telling a story which is engaging. I was more than happy to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next. He gives us some detail about Carl, the main character. His personal life isn't much to write home about. A wife lives somewhere nearby and keeps in touch now and again. There's an annoying step-son who lives in his own little world and a kindly lodger who seems to run the Morck household. They get by, sort of. The conversations and dialogue in this novel are natural and easy flowing. It doesn't have that forced feel. I was liking the author's style a lot.

Carl somehow acquires an assistant. That's assistant in the loose term of the word. Another oddball called Assad. It's clear however that Assad wants more to do than makes the tea and do the odd piece of photocopying. And as the story develops, we see Assad is cut out for detective work. He's bright and is an excellent second pair of eyes and ears for Morck. Morck is an infuriating but likeable character. Some days he rolls into the office, puts his feet on the desk and snoozes. But soon his snoozing days are over as one case catches his eye. There's a file on his desk with the name Merete Lynggaard and it's unsolved. A promising and high-profile politician, Merete was going places in her career when she disappeared from a local ferry five years ago. The case is really closed. Everyone thinks she's dead. She was accompanied on that last trip by her younger brother who has learning difficulties and witnesses saw brother and sister in a heated argument. All fingers pointed at the brother. He was blamed for her death. He's now tucked away in a residential institution and does not cause anyone any trouble.

The story see-saws between 2007 and 2002 (when Merete disappeared). The plot is very effective and it works beautifully. The build-up of tension, suspense and menace are almost palpable. We, the readers, know that time is fast running out. We get the pieces of the jig-saw one at a time. Everything about this book works well. The characters, the locations, the narrative. A terrific book, full of suspense. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then try The Savage Altar by Asa Larsson or Unrest by Jesper Stein.

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