17 Mar 2012

Review: "Disgrace" by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Right, whoever came up with the title "Disgrace" for this book by Jussi Adler-Olsen should be given a prize. "Lamest Title in 2012" perhaps or "The Lack of Imagination Award". The original title directly translated is "The Pheasant-Killers", not an easy title but at least it has punch and imagination. It stands out. "Disgrace" doesn't at all, actually it blends in so well with all the other Scandi crime fiction books that it is enough to make you loose appetite... The American title "The Absent One" is much better and whoever chose to go with "Disgrace" in the UK should seriously find another job because title-picking is not his forte.

Losing your appetite for the book over a lame title would be a shame though because as crime fiction goes, this is pretty good! This is the second novel in the Department Q series, the first one "Mercy" (another lame title) I reviewed some months back. In "Disgrace" we are back in the land of Detective Carl Moerck who is as grumpy as ever. Though Carl's intention is as ever to do as little as possible at work, a case lands on his desk that sends him and his team into the depths of the Copenhagen jetset. A brother and a sister has been brutally murdered in a cottage years earlier and when this old, unsolved case surfaces, it turns out to have ties to some very powerful socialites (hence the title "The Pheasant-Killers" as they go hunting in the weekends).

Meanwhile, a woman named Kimmie is wandering the streets. Ever aware of being under watch she steals luggage from travelers on their way to and from the airport and changes her look often. She lives on the streets, keeping company only with a heroin-addicted prostitute and she lives largely on her memories of the time when she herself was part of the socialite circle.

For Carl Moerck this is a case that takes more than a normal amount of work, skill and intuition. Nothing is as it seems and when the scale of crime and pure bloodlust comes to light, Carl is in the deep end fighting not only for justice and for what is right but also for his own life.

Let me be clear, this is a great book! You like the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson, you like Jo Nesboe? You will like this! For crime fiction this has a depth that you don't see often enough. The subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) comments on wealth, love and the way we choose to live are abundant and it is clear that we are talking about a writer with a mission here. Sometimes it gets a bit much but at the same time it is refreshing that there is an agenda that goes beyond entertainment.

Though the plot is different and imaginative, it is the characters that really bring this story to life. Kimmie with all her demons and memories is very credible and not entirely likeable, Carl Moerck on the other hand is likeable but slightly annoying at the same time and his assistant Assad is entertaining as well as fascinating. They drive the story and are the fuel on the fire of what is (in my opinion) a very good crime fiction novel!

Read it if: You like Stieg Larsson or Jo Nesboe. You are looking for something to take the place of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". You are planning a trip to Copenhagen.

1 comment:

  1. FYI, the titles were chosen to match the titles of the books in Germany (where titles are copyrighted, so they have to keep coming up with new ones that have never been used -- hence a lot of lame one-word titles).