The first book in the Department Q series featuring grumpy detective Carl Morck [Kvinden i buret:The Woman in the Cage] was published as Mercy [in the UK] and The Keeper of Lost Causes [in the USA] to great critical acclaim. I thought Mercy was one of the best books I read last year and was looking forward with great anticipation to the rest of the series. My review of Mercy.
Unfortunately number two in the series Fasandraberne [The Pheasant Killers] published as Disgrace in the UK, and The Absent One [in the USA] was a disappointment for this reader. Weighing in at over 500 pages with the villains identified at almost the start I found it boring, and somewhat derivative.
I had hoped for more on the mysterious background of Assad, Carl Morck’s Syrian assistant, which was hinted at in the first book; more on the investigation of the ambush that left one colleague dead, and another Carl’s friend Hardy lying paralysed in a hospital bed; and just more of Carl and Assad. But in Disgrace the factors that made Mercy such a good read were almost relegated to the back burner, and the insertion of a new member of the team the abrasive Rose seemed to alter the chemistry between Carl and Assad.
A cold case file appears on Carl’s desk, it concerns a murder of a brother and sister twenty years earlier for which a man is already serving a prison sentence. Possible suspects in the case included a gang of spoilt rich boarding school brats, with wealthy influential contacts. Since that murder some members of the gang have met their deaths in mysterious circumstances, others have become millionaires joining Copenhagen’s business elite, and in the case of one, Kimmie disappeared from society living by her wits on the city streets. Carl is told to stop the investigation by his superiors, and of course this makes him determined than ever to follow up any leads.
But from this promising beginning we are subjected to a catalogue of stories about the cocaine addicted boarding school gang’s brutal crimes, describing scenes of extreme violence against women, men and animals.
As the man began to hyperventilate, Ulrik ran the blade along his nose and across his trembling eyelids………At last Ditlev nodded calmly to Ulrik and turned his attention towards the man’s legs. In a moment when Ulrik cut his face, he would see them jerk in fright……Nothing else in Ditlev’s life could equal this kick.
I did not enjoy the image of Kimmie, when pregnant, being subjected to violent assaults by another member of the gang. Kimmie’s story is very tragic, but the illogical twist at the end had me totally confused, and the character was far too strange to elicit much sympathy. A far better tale of a woman living on the streets was written by Karin Alvtegen in her Nordic Glass Key award winning novel Missing .
Frankly I got bored with the lengthy cast of characters.
Now all the nasty K’s [shouldn't that be Ks] in her life lined up before her as the voices howled inside her, laughing hysterically as they gave her a scolding. Kyle, WillyK., Kassandra, Kare, Kristian, Klavs and all the others who crossed her path.
But among all the confusing Ks I was pleasantly amused to find a wonderfully named character called Mannfred Sloth. Mercy was slightly different from the run of the mill crime fiction books, but Disgrace with its explicit violence and inefficient Bond type villains was just another charmless thriller.
I will read the third book in the series, Flaskepost fra P: Message in a Bottle, to be published as Redemption in the UK with interestingly a third different translator for the UK series. But that is only because it won the Nordic Glass Key, and surely has to be an improvement on Disgrace. My advice is read Disgrace, and make up your own minds.