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.
**** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ******
Despite the fact that I enjoyed reading this novel, I have some questions about the events. If you have also read this book and know the answers,
please send me a comment. If you haven't already read the book, stop reading this review right now!
**** SPOILERS BELOW!! ******
How could the boy, Lasse Jenkins, riding in the backseat of his car just before the crash, look across and see into Merete's car, and instantly understand
that Uffe and Merete were playing around, and this distracted her father, who subsequently lost control of car and caused the big automobile accident. The two cars would have
been along side each other for just a split second.
Why does Merete receive a hand delivered message that says: "Have a nice time in Berlin". Why would Lasse give her that message?
Merete meets Daniel Hale for a date, and does not recognize him. But when she catches a glance at his indistinct face through a murky porthole, she immediately
knows he is Lasse Jensen - how come she suddenly recognizes he is the boy from the car crash?
What was the point of holding Merete in a pressure chamber and slowly increasing the pressure to 5 atmospheres if they were just going to kill her swiftly with explosives anyway? If Lasse had already worked out the date
at which he would kill her, then he would know increaing the chamber pressure by one atmosphere per year wouldn't be great enough to kill her.
What caused that disruption in all the police computers that shut down their system for two crucial days?