Posted: August 20, 2012 in Book Awards, Denmark, review

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.

  1. Maxine says:

    I completely agree with your take on this book. The best elements of Mercy (Moerk, his familly life, Assad) were reprised rather than developed. Which left the book to stand or fall on its crime plot – which was both weak and “comic book violent” in a way I hate. Pity, as the first had such promise.

  2. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Maxine. I don’t like being negative especially, when I enjoyed Mercy so much, but honesty is the best policy. Although it may not make you as popular as those reviewers who gush positively about every book. 😉

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – So sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you, especially since the first was so good. I too had been hoping that we’d learn more about Mørck, Assad and the some of the other characters from Mercy. Such a pity they aren’t explore more here. And please don’t worry about being as candid as you are here. I appreciate it very much!

  4. LU Editor says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog – excellent to have these reviews and either save me from a read, or point me in the right direction.

  5. kathy d. says:

    Please be candid. What I’ve learned from this review and some excellent others is that I’m not going to read this book. An expenditure of time to read a 500-page mediocre book just isn’t worth it to me. I can read two good books in that period of time.
    Now that I’ve read and enjoyed Anne Holt’s Blind Goddess, I don’t want to waste my time on so-so books, and certainly not with some of the graphic brutality that you describe, against a pregnant woman, no less.
    Not my cup of tea.
    Since Adler-Olsen’s third book won the Nordic Glass Key, I’ll consider it while I read the incisive reviews which help me to make my reading decisions.

  6. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Margot and Kathy for your comments.
    I am pleased you enjoyed The Blind Goddess, Kathy, I am looking forward to the rest of that series.
    I get annoyed at descriptions of violence that aren’t really necessary to the plot, or character development. Readers don’t need to be told five or six times that X is a violent psychopath, here he/she is beating up an old man, or pregnant woman.
    There are quite enough real life arrogant men going round abusing women without reading about it in fiction books described in such detail.

  7. kathy d. says:

    Yes. There is enough brutality on the local news, which often I try to avoid. And I read for enjoyment, escapism and distraction. I take virtual vacations around the globe through reading. Why would I or anyone want to read about the violence that’s on the news — or even embellishing on it — in books which we read for pleasure? It boggles one’s mind.

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