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The Exception by Christian Jungersen
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The Exception (2004)

by Christian Jungersen

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English (21)  Danish (6)  Norwegian (2)  French (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Another in the ever expanding sub-genre of Scandinavian thrillers with incredibly stilted dialog, terrible translation, improbable coincidences, pop psychology, insufferable hi-tech and current event references, and self-absorbed intellectual proselytizers out to save the world. Too bad since the premise is interesting and the story does kind of grow on you by the end. ( )
  mabroms | Sep 3, 2013 |
I read this book in the original Danish.

The main characters in the book are Malene, Iben, Anne-Lise and Camilla who work at the Danish Centre for Information on Genocide. Malene and Iben are best friends outside the office. Anne-Lise is a librarian and feels mobbed by the two and excluded from doing the work she was entitled to according to her qualifications and what she had been led to believe at her job interview.

Malene and Iben were previously in a traumatic hostage situation in Africa, where Iben saves them by an act of bravery. Later in the book we fear that one or the other may have become mentally unhinged by this experience.

Now Iben writes articles about genocide, the psychology of evil and the Serbian war criminal Mirko Zigic who is wanted by the International War Crimes Tribunal and still at large.

Iben and Malene receive anonymous threatening e-mails which they think may have been sent by Mirko Zigic, but they also suspect Anne-Lise.

The various chapters are seen through the eyes of Iben, Anne-Lise, Malene and eventually Camilla, respectively. Since they all see things differently and are suspicious of each other, we never really know what is happening, or who is the guilty party, if indeed one of them is. The book is deeply psychological and there is also much discussion about multiple/split personalities and the like, and hints that the guilty party, if one of them, may be unaware of what she is doing.

I found the book to be well-written, suspenseful, enjoyable and unputdownable, though it did seem to go on and on. In my view the ending is ambiguous, and the reader has to make up his own mind about what actually happened and who the perpetrator is.

However, I would strongly recommend the book for those who are fond of psychological thrillers, though I enjoyed Jungersen’s book “Du forsvinder” (“You are disappearing”) even better. (Review will follow.)
  IonaS | Apr 28, 2013 |
Dark story about women in an office dedicated to the study of genocide. Author explores what makes people evil, both historically in mass murder, and locally in small groups. ( )
  paakre | Apr 27, 2013 |
Four women work at the Danish Centre for Genocide Information. Iben and Malene are old friends from University who are now project officers at the Centre, Camilla is secretary to the Centre’s Director and Anna-Lise, the newest member of staff, is the librarian. Iben and Malene receive death threats via email and attempt to work out whether the source of the threats was one of the war criminals they have written about as part of their work or someone within their own office. Chapters told from each of the women’s point of view build up a picture of how psychological stress impacts on a fairly closed micro-environment.

This turned out to be one of those books that, for several reasons, sounded like a better idea than it turned out to be in reality. For a start I have a vague uneasiness about books in which all the female characters are portrayed with varying degrees of mental instability, especially when the book is authored by a bloke. Although I don’t really think that in this instance anything sinister is meant by the depictions, it wasn’t that many years ago when ‘all women are crazy’ was considered a legitimate medical opinion (I read loads of such sentiments in my days as an archivist). A good deal of the behaviour depicted here would have had misogynists everywhere nodding sagely and murmuring about women staying at home where they belong. So while the psychological breakdown of each character was well done I would have preferred that at least one of the women had turned out not to be a sex-obsessed, blithering mess (or worse).

Also, as is often the case these days I thought the book was too long. At many points in the story a load of detail about some minor tangent was incorporated and even though some of these were interesting most did nothing to progress the story. At 300-350 pages and minus trivia about who sat next to whom at a conference and how many meals of frozen cod were microwaved I would have found the book far more suspenseful.

I read a good deal of translated fiction and normally don’t notice it except to marvel at a skill I could never hope to achieve. However in this instance I found the language to be rather formal. I know we Aussies have a tendency towards laziness with our particular adaptation of the lingo but I don’t know of any place where English is the primary language that would talk of someone ‘fixing herself a portion of cereal’ for example. It felt to me as if the book had been translated into a sort of dictionary version of the language that no one actually speaks and this gave it a quite unnatural quality.

Finally there was my all too familiar disappointment with the ending. Even allowing for the slightly fantastical element provided by a psychological melt down the ending wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the book. A fairly standard thriller-ish conclusion was bolted on to three quarters of a psychological suspense novel in a way that didn’t suit either style and I found this quite unsatisfying. It did keep me guessing though so I have to give some marks for that.

The structure of the book, which included several articles supposedly written by Iben about the psychology of evil in addition to the different points of view, worked surprisingly well and I was both fascinated and horrified by the parts of the book that dealt with all the genocides in our planet’s history. However this made me more tempted to seek out some non-fiction about yet another subject I appear to be woefully ignorant of rather than keen to read another book by this author. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
I couldn't finish this. It is poorly written, the characters are unbelieveable and the so-called plot is drivel. Many people have called it a brillant insight into the nature of evil. IMHO, there is much better fiction (just about anything) and much more insightful works on the nature of evil, eg, Hannah Arendt and Inga Clendinning. ( )
  rdurie | Feb 7, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385516290, Hardcover)

A bestseller throughout Europe, THE EXCEPTION is a gripping dissection of the nature of evil and of the paranoia and obsessions that drive ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts.

Four women work together for a small nonprofit in Copenhagen that disseminates information on genocide. When two of them receive death threats, they immediately believe that they are being stalked by Mirko Zigic, a Serbian torturer and war criminal, whom they have recently profiled in their articles.

As the tensions mount among the women, their suspicions turn away from Zigic and toward each other. The threats increase and soon the office becomes a battlefield in which each of the women’s move is suspect. Their obsession turns into a witch hunt as they resort to bullying and victimization.

Yet these are people who daily analyze cases of appalling cruelty on a worldwide scale, and who are intimate with the psychology of evil. The cruelty which the women have described from a safe distance is now revealed in their own world. They discover that none of them is exactly the person she seems to be. And then they learn that Interpol has traced Mirko Zigic to Denmark.

THE EXCEPTION is a unique and intelligent thriller, heralding Christian Jungersen as a gifted storyteller and keen observer of the human psyche.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:26 -0400)

THE EXCEPTION is a gripping dissection of the nature of evil and of the paranoia and obsessions that drive ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts. Four women work together for a small nonprofit in Copenhagen that disseminates information on genocide. When two of them receive death threats, they immediately believe that they are being stalked by Mirko Zigic, a Serbian torturer and war criminal, whom they have recently profiled in their articles. As the tensions mount among the women, their suspicions turn away from Zigic and toward each other. The threats increase and soon the office becomes a battlefield in which each of the women's move is suspect. Their obsession turns into a witch hunt as they resort to bullying and victimization. Yet these are people who daily analyze cases of appalling cruelty on a worldwide scale, and who are intimate with the psychology of evil. The cruelty which the women have described from a safe distance is now revealed in their own world. They discover that none of them is exactly the person she seems to be. And then they learn that Interpol has traced Mirko Zigic to Denmark.… (more)

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