The Keeper of Lost Causes


Jussi Adler-Olsen


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

October 25, 2012

ne of the blurbs on the back cover of The Keeper of Lost Causes states: "Plan on putting everything else in your life on hold if you pick up this book." Indeed. I award this novel a full five star rating because I found it to be a real page turner, I read the novel in two days. If you pause while reading and think, it isn't too hard to figure out who-dunnit and why, but the chances are good that you will not be pausing for long. The story isn't full of exotic action sequences or cliff hanger scenes, yet the novel is an exciting read with suspense and plausible sounding detective work.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Because it was written in Scandinavia, this book is invariably compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I actually liked Keeper better than Dragon Tattoo.

The Keeper of Lost Causes stars Carl Mørck, a detective on the Copenhagen police force. At the beginning of novel, we watch Carl go to the police station, but he doesn't do any real work because he is still recovering from a traumatic encounter that left one of his fellow detectives dead and a second friend paralyzed for life. Mørck survived the violent encounter physically unharmed, but rather unhinged mentally. He continues to haunt the police station, and the chief would like to fire his useless carcass, but there is no way the union would allow Mørck to be fired so soon after such a tragedy. So the police management cooks up a new scheme to get rid of Carl - they promote him to the head (and sole member) of a newly formed division called Department Q. He is given an isolated office in the basement, and a stack of the coldest of cold cases to solve. Mørck understands the score, and figures he will be content in his lonely office smoking, surfing the Internet, and work Sudoku puzzles. But then Mørck is assigned an assistant, Assad, a recent immigrant from Syria. Assad takes the police work seriously, even though he is not a police officer and presumably has no training. Almost against his will, Mørck finds himself working on the cases because Assad expects him to. Mørck begins with the case of Merete Lynggaard, a beautiful young politician who disappeared from a ferry boat while on a trip to Berlin with her brother. Merete vanished five years ago, so the flimsy clues that remain are now ancient history. But Mørck and Assad manage to keep the case building by catching a few items that the original investigation missed. The momentum builds from there.

The story is told in a series of alternating chapters - one chapter on Merete in her dismal prison, followed by a chapter detailing the actions of Mørck and Assad. The reader knows from the start that Merete is still alive, much of the tension in the novel is based upon the department Q detectives figuring out that fact (Merete is presumed to have drowned in a ferry accident, though a body was never found). The character development is probably the best part of the novel - Merete and Mørck are convincing human personalities, and Assad just might steal the show. Certainly this would make a fine movie.