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Erbarmen: Thriller by Jussi Adler-Olsen
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Erbarmen: Thriller (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Hannes Thiess (Übersetzer)

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1,6461204,377 (4.05)208
TheAlice's review
Carl Mørk’s letzter Einsatz endete tragisch, ein Kollege ist tot, der Andere sitzt im Rollstuhl. Seitdem ist er traumatisiert und hat schwere Schuldgefühle, die auch seine Arbeitshaltung verschlechtern. Seine Kollegen und Vorgesetzen meiden ihn schon länger, als eine neue Sondereinheit gebildet wird, ist ihre Chance gekommen, ihn ohne großes Aufsehe abzuschieben. Mørk wird Leiter des neuen Dezernats Q, das sich mit ungeklärten Verbrechen beschäftigt.

Anfangs ist er gelangweilt und alles andere als erpicht darauf, sich den Fällen zu widmen, doch sein neuer Assistent Assad bringt Schwung in die Sache. Sie stoßen auf die Akte der Abgeordneten Merete: Sie verschwand vor etlichen Jahren vom Deck eines Schiffes und ward nie mehr gesehen. Der Fall Merete wird zum ersten Fall für das Dezerenats Q.

Das Buch lebt vor allem durch seine fein gezeichneten Charaktere. Carl, ein ehrlich gesagt eher unsympathischer Kerl, bekommt durch den fröhlichen, herzlichen Assad einen perfekten Gegenpol.

Olsen schreibt durchgängig flüssig und fesselnd, durch häufiges Wechseln der Perspektive bleibt die Geschichte in Schwung. Stets glaubwürdig führt der Autor die Handlungsstränge zusammen und präsentiert eine gelungene, in sich schlüssige Auflösung. Diese war zwar bereits zu erahnen, das mindert das Lesevergnügen aber in keinster Weise.

Olsens Debütroman ist für Krimifans uneingeschränkt empfehlenswert und macht große Hoffnungen auf den Folgeband, der für September 2010 angekündigt ist. ( )
  TheAlice | Feb 19, 2010 |
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Very enjoyable, but unfortunately, the ending was easy to predict. ( )
  ScribbleKey | Jul 1, 2014 |
I don't as a general rule read police procedural or gritty crime novels. I watch them on TV but usually I don't read them. My attention is prone to wander when a crime novel gets bogged down in details that don't interest me. Having finally gotten around to reading the Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy last year, I can see where some novels of this type has a certain appeal. While Larsson and Adler-Olsen each place their own stamp on the crime novels they have written, they do have similarities that made it easy for me to make a side-by-side comparison of their first books. One characteristic both books share is the focus on the person and not the process. My preference is to read about complex characters and not the actual nitty-gritty of police work. Adler-Olsen provides my psychologically-driven mind with enough information to keep my mind in analysis mode regarding Carl's very dark and moody persona and his damaged past while at the same time providing a rather entertaining assistant in Assad, a political-refugee immigrant with a mysterious past of his own.

Adler-Olsen takes his time in framing his characters and the crime for the reader. The reveals are gradual, one piece of information at a time, and the story progresses at a more moderate, dare I say, sedate pace. Now, I like a story that has a slow build and takes it time with me. It makes it a lot easier for me to read the book in intervals spread out over time and not feel as thought I have to backtrack and refresh my memory when I do come back to it. I also like stories that are a bit of a mental puzzle to figure out. If I were to compare book one of the Larsson trilogy with this first book in a series I would have to say that while I prefer Larsson's characters, in particular the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander, Adler-Olsen has provided a better crime puzzle, IMO, to mentally analyze and figure out. For me, reading [The Keeper of Lost Causes] fit into my comfort zone as a read because I found it to be an interesting blending of the Larsson books with one of my favorite British TV series New Tricks, a cop show that follows the work of the fictional Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad for the London Metropolitan Police as they investigate old unsolved crimes.

For those of you who haven't already read this one, the ending makes the rather slow pace of the story worth while. Adler-Olsen has also left a lot of unfinished business as it relates to Carl Mørck, a character I admit to having difficulties to warm up to. While I wasn't riveted to the story, I found it to be a very satisfying read and I will continue with the series as I want to see how things progress in Department Q with Carl and Assad.

Best of all, this one contains the following fantastic book quote:

"She'd been lying on the floor thinking about books. That was something she often did in order not to think about the life she might have had, if only she'd made different choices. When she thought about books, she could move into a whole different world. Just remembering the feeling of the dry surface and inexplicable roughness of the paper could ignite a blaze of yearning inside of her. The scent of evaporated cellulose and printer's ink. Thousands of times now she'd sent her thoughts into her imaginary library and selected the only book in the world that she knew she could recall without embellishing it. It was not the one she wanted to remember, not even the one that had made the greatest impression on her. But it was the only book that had remained completely intact in her tortured memory because of the liberating bursts of laughter she associated with it.

A great big smile came to my face when the I discovered what book was being referred to by this quote. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | May 10, 2014 |
I liked this book. The writing was descriptive and fast paced. As far as thrillers go, this was a good one. ( )
  janismack | Apr 8, 2014 |
Entertaining. If you like police procedurals and mysteries, I recommend it. ( )
  pmackey | Mar 19, 2014 |
I picked this book based on the rave reviews it had received - "The new 'it' boy of Nordic Noir" from The Times of London, among many others.
I have to say that the writing did not disappoint. It was well written and the characters were well drawn. The story was a compelling, a real page turner. The reason for the four star review as opposed to five stars is due to the fact that I found the premise behind the story to be too far fetched. It's hard to go into more detail without giving away the ending, but I felt that it was unbelievable that some of the characters would go to such great lengths. ( )
  Bookishhorseygal | Mar 18, 2014 |
I couldn't put this book down it is such a good read. Detective Carl Morck has returned to work after surviving an attack which killed one colleague and left the other as a quadraplegic . In a depressive state, he is picked to head Dept. Q, the new division to investigate cold cases. His new assistant is a fascinating character called Assad, who has a shady but tragic past. Their first case involves the disappearance, suspected suicide of a former politician Merete Lymgaard five years ago. This is a such a great story, as Carl and Assad unravel the clues to discover the real story.. I'm going to find more of these to read. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Mar 17, 2014 |
This is a terrific mystery. Read it under the title Keeper of Lost '
Causes but it is the first in the Q1 series with Carl Morck, who is much like Harry Hole in the Jo Nesbo books. Gripping from start to finish. ( )
  annbury | Feb 28, 2014 |
Solid detective story, some interesting twists, moved a bit slowly — could be a cultural thing though. ( )
  dreamingbear | Feb 6, 2014 |
I loved this book. I simply couldn't put it down once I picked it up. "The Keeper of Lost Causes" is the first in a series featuring Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Morck. He reminds me of another detective - John Corey, who is featured in several books by Nelson DeMille. Both detectives are darkly humorous, deeply flawed, completely irreverent, and bitingly ironic. Moreover, they have a deep understanding of and appreciation for the bittersweet hilarity of the absurd.

There have been hundreds of reviews of this book, illuminating many aspects of it. I decided to focus my review on one of the two main characters in the story - Merete Lynggaard (Carl Morck being the other). Merete is a young liberal politician whose career is on the rise. While she's not necessarily liked by everyone, she is admired and respected for her savvy, intelligence, beauty, and no-nonsense demeanor. Very early in the book she is kidnapped and held captive by unknown individuals. Because her kidnappers never demand a ransom, Merete is believed to be dead by the outside world. Years later, when Carl Morck is given her case to review, he discovers that many valuable leads were never explored. Carl re-opens the case and the majority of the book is split between his attempts to unravel what really happened to Merete and Merete's experience at the hands of her captors.

Note: while my the rest of my review does not reveal Merete's kidnappers or ultimate fate, I do focus on her confinement and experiences as a victim. Some aspects of this discussion may be considered "spoilers" by some readers. Please consider this before reading the rest of this review.

After I finished The Keeper of Lost Causes'" I went on Amazon to read others readers' reviews. I was particularly struck by two negative reviews by readers who were basically put off the book by what one of the readers described as "torture porn." The other reviewer commented: "I just got angry with the author's insistence on drowning the reader in his never ending pathological preoccupation with relentlessly putting into multiple pages of print the increasingly sadistic and horrifying reality based years of torture of the victim by the criminals."

I can relate to these reviewers' disgust. I am frequently confused and discomforted by the graphic depictions of violence and torture, often unimaginably sadistic, in the novels I read. I often skip over those passages and in those instances when I do read them, I distance myself psychologically in order to take it all in.

However, I didn't experience Adler-Olson's depiction of the violence Merete experiences at the hands of her captors as gratuitous violence. What I later learned about the author's childhood helped me make sense of this.

According to Wikipedia, Jussi Adler-Olson was the youngest of four kids and the only boy. He was also "the son of the successful sexologist and psychiatrist Henry Olsen (and) he spent his childhood with his family in several mental hospitals across Denmark."

A later Department Q novel - "The Purity of Vengeance," deals with Scandinavians' shameful history of eugenics, focusing on the story of a young woman who seeks revenge against those who subjected her to forced sterilization. The publishing notes for “The Purity of Vengeance’’ state that "Adler-Olsen’s father, a psychiatrist, briefly worked at Sprogo, and his stories of the harsh hand dealt the women there seem to have profoundly impressed the son."

While I haven't yet read "The Purity of Vengeance," knowing this about Adler-Olson's childhood helped me understand my reaction to Merete's captivity and suffering in "The Keeper of Lost Causes." As the story unfolded, I was repeatedly struck by how much her experiences mirrored those of countless women during the 1800s and much of the 1900s, when women could be confined (and basically imprisoned) in psychiatric asylums by their fathers, husbands, and brothers for nothing more than their refusal to conform to the accepted norms of "womanly behavior."

Merete's story is horrific and the description of her suffering at the hands of her psychotic captors seems unimaginable, and yet, as her story unfolds, I increasingly became aware that what at first seemed incomprehensible, was not just Merete's story, but the story of countless women who have been falsely committed to psychiatric hospitals and subjected to mental and physical abuse couched as "treatment" at the hands of sadistic doctors, nurses, and orderlies. Often, these women served as nothing more than human lab rats - completely dehumanized by their captors, they were subjected to invasive experiments and observation for no reason other than to satisfy the curiosity of the ruling "medical establishment."

The summer I was ten years old, I remember my grandmother, a nurse, telling me about her experience as a young woman working in a psychiatric hospital. She described to me how out-of-control patients were placed in a warm pools of water, with a covering that only allowed their heads to be above the surface. This was alternated with wrapping their naked bodies mummy-like in cold wet towels. This treatment supposedly calmed the patients, making them more pliable and cooperative. My grandmother's horror when describing this and other "treatments" she observed was apparent.

Some years later I found out that my grandmother had suffered a "nervous breakdown" when my mother, her daughter, was twelve years old. My grandmother spent the summer in a psychiatric hospital and I've always wondered how much of what she'd told me earlier was drawn from her experience as a patient, rather than her experience as a young nurse.

What I know of my grandmother's experience pales, of course, in comparison to the absolute degradation and agony Merete's captors subject her to. However, reading about it brought to mind what my grandmother shared with me so long ago and I can't help but think that Adler-Olson's experience as child growing up in the shadow of various mental health hospitals has infused his work and his description of the plights and suffering of his victims at the hands of their oppressors.

And so, in this light, I think to describe Adler-Olson's work as "torture porn," is misinformed and misguided. It is true that gratuitous violence permeates almost every part of our culture, especially our entertainment. Every time I fast forward through a TV show, close my eyes in a movie, or skip through a particularly graphic description of violence in a book, I think to myself - "Why in the hell am I watching/reading this?" I tell myself that it's because the rest of the story is so interesting, but I'm aware of, confused, and disturbed by my ability to tolerate greater degrees and amounts of violence. The idea that I could actually find that violence entertaining is perverse.

However, I don't think Adler-Olson's work falls into the category of gratuitous violence that serves no purpose other than to entertain. There is nothing sensationalized about his descriptions of Merete's experiences. Her captivity reminded me of a psychiatric patient in solitary confinement; a lab rat subjected to sadistic experiments that serve no purpose other than to fulfill the capricious whims of its captors. I have no doubt that Adler-Olson's own experiences have infused his work and I feel certain that I am not alone in my reaction to it. In this light, while his depiction of Merete's degradation is brutal in its honesty - the courage, determination and strength she demonstrates is all the more remarkable. He illuminates her spirit. In doing so, Adler-Olson shines a light on all that is good in humanity, even when it is faced with unimaginable evil.

And at the end of the day, it is the brightness of Merete's soul that I will remember best from "The Keeper of Lost Causes." ( )
2 vote Yogamom67 | Feb 3, 2014 |
Listened to this book and after this introduction to Adler-Olselen's style I am going to read more of the Q series in print as well. The writing made me want to follow the lives and feelings of the main characters. who had many trials and tribulations in their private lives and in their detective work. Twists and turns and nail biting drama abound.
  33racoonie | Jan 31, 2014 |
This is a Scandinavian crime fiction. This is a police procedural. Carl Morck was a detective with the Copenhagen police squad. In a shooting incidence Carl had lost a partner and his other partner was paralyzed. Carl after returning to his regular duties was being difficult and hence what made the chief of a new department called department Q which dealt with high-profile cold cases. The first case which he investigates is of Merete Lynggaard an upcoming young politician who suddenly disappeared while on a ferry. On deeper investigation Carl and his assistant Assad discover various discrepancies in the previous investigations and discover certain new things. The story ends with a thrilling climax.

A good crime thriller. And moreover it's the first installment of a series. ( )
1 vote mausergem | Jan 30, 2014 |
Love this series

The #1 international bestseller from Jussi Adler-Olsen, author of The Absent One—perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead … yet.

Darkly humorous, propulsive, and atmospheric, The Keeper of Lost Causes introduces American readers to the mega-bestselling series fast becoming an international sensation. ( )
1 vote | Suzanne_Mitchell | Dec 28, 2013 |
I just loved this book. It has just about everything I want from a mystery. The story is tense and taut with little superfluous writing. The character development is phenomenal. Carl is one of the best characters I have read about in quite a while. He is tormented like many other Scandinavian detectives recently. But something about him makes him more enjoyable to read. Assad is an excellent addition and their relationship is quite fun.

While the crime and Carl's back story are both quite dark, the book is very enjoyable. I can't say much more than that I enjoyed it greatly and I think any other mystery fan will too. The only downside is having to wait for new installments in the series to come out now that I am hooked.
1 vote bas615 | Dec 15, 2013 |
Really liked this book. A nice change from the the usual crime novel. Set in Denmark with a rogue cop who is "promoted" to running his own department. His only help is a Syrian exile who is drafted into work as his driver. Wonderful twists - even though I know "who dunnit" very much earlier than normal - this didn't lessen my enjoyment of the novel at all. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
3/29 ( )
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen interested me right from the start, the author allows the story to build slowly but as the tension mounts I found the pages turning faster and faster. This is an excellent thriller with dark undertones, a combination of painstaking detective work alongside a ticking clock as the readers become aware that there is a definite timeline at work here.

Merete Lynngaard is a well known political figure in Denmark and her disappearance in 2002 was a huge story. But by 2007 when this case becomes the first cold case to be investigated by the newly formed Q Department,, it had quietly faded. Detective Carl Morck was positive she was long dead, probably a suicide. As the pieces are slowly put together, a truly horrifying picture emerges and soon Morck and his assistant, Assad, are in a race against time.

The author has delivered a top-notch, original story and peopled it with vivid characters. Both the damaged Carl Morck and his mysterious assistant Assad have a lot more to reveal and, with the quality of this story to go by, I can see that this is a series I will enjoy following. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Aug 19, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this fine thriller and look forward to reading more from this fine author. ( )
  dano35ie | Aug 13, 2013 |
A great crusty dectective- Carl Moeck and his new assistant Assad (with a mysterious past) - are assigned to Department Q as a means of removing Carl from the homicide division where although a brilliant detective he causes problems in morale. The case is the disappearance of a politician 5 years previously. Excellent detective story, even if one can predict early on who "done it". ( )
  CarterPJ | Aug 12, 2013 |
A few weeks ago I read and didn't much enjoy Adler-Olsen's third book in the Department Q series: it seemed to fall into two halves, one of which annoyed me and the other of which I liked much better. Noting that it had an average GoodReads rating above four stars, I browsed around to see if it was Just Me. In fact, there are a few others who were likewise a bit iffy about the novel, one of whom (I forget who) said quite forcefully that #1 in the series was pretty damn' fine. So I decided to give it a try . . .

I enjoyed the whole of this book as much as I did the better half of A Conspiracy of Faith. It didn't bowl me over, but it was a better than average thriller. Five years ago, rising national politician Merete Lynggaard disappeared on a ferry to Germany, perhaps lost overboard, the only witness being her brother Uffe; unfortunately, ever since the car crash in their childhood that killed their parents, Uffe has been mentally retarded, so he could tell the investigating cops nothing.

Now, an opportunist politician has demanded the Copenhagen cops set up a Cold Case Department, and parliament has allocated money for it. The Homicide Dept. is happy to accept the funding, less so to set up the section . . . until inspiration strikes. Carl Morck, the dept.'s prime PITA cop, has just returned to duty after a tragic incident saw the death of one of his sidekicks and the permanent hospitalization of the other. What better than to promote Carl sideways into the job of running Department Q singledhandedly, thereby getting him out of everyone's hair while being able to divert the bulk of the allocated funds to other purposes? Soon Carl wangles himself an assistant, the enigmatic Syrian emigre Assad, who's supposedly just for menial duties but proves far better than he should be at this detectiving business. And the first case the pair take up is that of the long-missing Merete Lynggaard . . .

As in Conspiracy, there are secondary cases. One concerns the incident that lost Carl his two sidekicks; that still hasn't been solved by book's end. The other is a savage murder in a local park; even though Carl's not supposed to be meddling in active cases, he gives the investigating team (with more help from Assad than he initially realizes) some pointers that lead to the case's early solution. I had a sort of "So what?" response to this strand of the book, and wished the tale had stuck to the main plot.

We're given enough information that the solution to that mystery isn't especially hard to work out; the pleasure comes from watching Carl and Assad, who of course for a long time have far less to work with than we do, eventually getting there; from our sympathies with the plucky Merete; and from the genuinely exciting buildup of tension as the two cops race to reach Merete in time.

Really this deserves ~3.5 stars: it's better than the average blockbuster US thriller you'll come across, but it's not exceptional. If I see another Adler-Olsen book, in the series or out of it, I might pick it up, but I doubt I'd go out of my way.

Hum. Haw. Swither.
( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
Chief detective Carl Morck, recovering from what he thought was a career-destroying gunshot wound, is relegated to cold cases and becomes immersed in the five-year disappearance of a politician. (from the publisher)

This was a well-written book with mystery, suspense and even a little bit of humor. It takes place in Denmark (the author is from Denmark) which adds interest to the story and to the enjoyment of the book. ( )
  lrobe190 | Jul 3, 2013 |
The Keeper of Lost Causes is a gripping, page-turning book that psychological mystery and police procedural fans will devour long into the night. I carried it with me to my husband's doctors' appointments, and every book-reading person in waiting rooms asked, "What is that book about?" "Who is the author?" Divulging juicy morsels of Jussi Adler-Olsen's American debut of his "Department Q" series, the rogue detective Carl Morck's investigative techniques and clever insights, his mysterious, yet ingenious assistant Assad became my constant mantra. I would recommend this book to readers who relish international drama and intrigue, who seek a well-written story with unexpected twists and turns, and who now have another award-winning Scandinavian author to add to their reading repertoire.

If you are looking for an amazing Danish author whose ability to spin a tale will keep you completely immersed by his cunning approach to explore one person's ravaged mind and exhibit the depth of hatred in the unimaginable design and execution of revenge, this is the book for you. Should you deem the intricacies of such a tale insufficient, Department Q's Detective Carl Moerk and his able assistant Assad will definitely capture your attention. ( )
  saratoga99 | Jun 27, 2013 |
I spent a rainy day reading this first of the Department Q novels and thoroughly enjoyed it! I will certainly follow up and read the others in the series. While there are some similarities to Stieg Larsson, I found this book less ambitious, no no less interesting. It will be interesting to see how many of the characters carry through into future works. I would definitely recommend this author to others. ( )
  Jcambridge | Jun 24, 2013 |
*** Spoiler alert ***

Emotionally hard-hitting crime fiction. Original in its theme - a woman is imprisoned illegally for a few years in a pressure chamber, with the pressure ratcheted up at the end of every year. The book is very exotic - set in Denmark with a leading character from Syria. Interesting and exciting. ( )
  jerhogan | Jun 16, 2013 |
Carl Morck is just back to work with the detective bureau in Copenhagen. He was shot, one partner killed and another paralyzed from the neck down. To say he’s depressed and feeling guilty is no stretch of the imagination. He’s burned out, tired, and just wants out. Instead he finds himself promoted to head up a new division. He’s locked away in the basement, away from everyone and left to stew alone, with a pile of old unsolved cases.

His only employee, a naturalized citizen from Syria, who is supposed to have been hired to clean, ends up pushing Carl into picking up one of the cases, that of a missing female politician. Carl reluctantly begins to look at the case, but is drawn into it, more by the cleaners plan than by his own, until he begins to think he might have found out where the first investigation went wrong.

Very very noir mystery. Grim situation, horrible bad guys, and a detective who’s barely hanging on to his own sanity, all come together for a nail-biting conclusion.

Great characterization and a fascinating slow but steady build to the finale. ( )
  majkia | Apr 26, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this book! The characters were very believable. I loved that Carl wanted so much to not care about anything, but his cop instincts (and a little good luck) wouldn't let him ignore the evidence. Myrete was certainly lucky that Carl irritated enough people to make him head of department Q. I wish the rest of the books were translated to english so that I could love them all! ( )
  LBlauser | Apr 26, 2013 |
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