Those who enjoyed the compelling and astringent Mercy will be pleased to know that we are back in the lively company of Adler-Olsen’s signature characters: his acerbic copper Carl Mørck, in police Department Q (which to the frustration of his superiors Mørck has managed to transform into a successful facility) and his eccentric Muslim colleague Assad. Disgrace was as weighty and imposing as its predecessor (running to 500 pages), and despite the depredations of its loathsome villains, it was, strangely, not as dark as the earlier book – possibly because there was no real equivalent for the desperate sympathy we felt for the tortured female politician in Mercy.
Some might recognise in Adler-Olsen the influence of the English writer Len Deighton; the sardonic dialogue and the resolutely unromantic surroundings in which the central characters work owe not a little to the dingy office life of Deighton’s nameless spy.
In the new book, Victim 2117, the newspapers identify the body of a refugee who has drowned in the Med as ‘Victim 2117’ – the number designating how many have died in their attempts to flee their countries. But the death is to have significant consequences for Department Q and Carl Mørck. And for Ghalib, a sadistic denizen of the Abu Ghraib prison, Victim 2117 is a crucial element in a long-gestating terrorist plot.
While this is not quite vintage Adler-Olsen, the narrative is still handled with the rigour that we have come to expect from him – not to mention the social concerns that have powered many of his books. Those who have enjoyed earlier entries in the series will find this one well worthwhile.
Reviewed by Barry Forshaw
Written by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translated from the Danish by William Frost
Published by Quercus (2020)
Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Nordic Noir. Other work: Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk).
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