A Conspiracy of Faith (Department Q Series #3)


The New York Times and internationally bestselling Danish crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen returns with the third thriller in his exhilarating Department Q series.

Detective Carl Mørck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It’s a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before ...

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The New York Times and internationally bestselling Danish crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen returns with the third thriller in his exhilarating Department Q series.

Detective Carl Mørck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It’s a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before the seal was cracked and the gruesome message, written in Danish, was analyzed. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren’t they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?

Carl’s investigation will force him to cross paths with a woman stuck in a desperate marriage: Her husband refuses to tell her where he goes, how long he will be away, what he does while he’s gone—or even what he does for a living. Isolated after choosing him over family and friends, she waits for days on end, and when he returns she must endure his wants, his moods, his threats. But enough is enough. She will find out the truth, no matter the cost to him—or to herself.

In this heart-pounding thriller, Carl and his colleagues Assad and Rose must use every resource available to uncover the horrifying truth set adrift in that bottle all those years ago.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
In Adler-Olsen’s latest Department Q novel, a message in a bottle is discovered 14 years after it was written and tossed into the ocean. The barely legible note, written in blood, is from two kidnapped children begging for help. Detective Carl Mørck and his eccentric team of Danish detectives are tasked with investigating the legitimacy of the note and, once it’s authenticity is confirmed, discovering the fate of the two victims. What they ultimately uncover is a serial killer who has kept his criminal activities hidden for over a decade. With his slightly accented reading, Graeme Malcolm does an excellent job of bringing this dark Nordic suspense story to life. His melancholic delivery aptly reflects the story’s often-somber content. That said, he fully captures each of Adler-Olsen’s quirky characters and, in the case of the Department Q’s personnel, allows them to bring sparks of humor here and there before things become too grim. In all, Malcolm’s skillful performance lets this mystery unfold at a natural, steady pace with just the right balance between the dark and light, making for a satisfying listen. A Dutton hardcover. (May)
Library Journal - Audio
★ 09/15/2013
An intriguing message in a bottle motivates Det. Carl Mørck's assistants Assad and Rose to look further. Is it a prank from 20 years ago or a desperate cry for help? Though no related cold case exists, his determined assistants push Carl into the search for what turns out to be multiple crimes by a diabolical serial killer. This latest series entry (after The Absent One) is given an outstanding reading by Graeme Malcolm. This is an extraordinary mystery by a writer at the top of his game. The translation by Martin Aitken captures the ironic nuances of police and government bureaucracy, the terrors of victims and captives, the subtleties of racism and sexism, and the excitement of dangerous chases and confrontations. VERDICT This adult audio, with its moments of laugh-out-loud humor, is a must for adult fiction collections. ["This series has enough twists to captivate contemporary mystery readers and enough substance and background to entertain readers with historical and literary tastes," read the starred review of the Dutton hc, LJ 3/15/13.—Ed.]—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Publishers Weekly
A cold 14-year-old murder-arson case preoccupies crotchety Copenhagen Deputy Det. Supt. Carl Mørck in bestseller Adler-Olsen’s third Department Q thriller (after 2012’s The Absent One), a shattering parable of honest individuals caught up in the corruption of our times. Mørck must also contend with such problems as an office torn asunder by idiotic governmental asbestos mitigation; the replacement of his assistant Rose by even quirkier Yrsa; his enigmatic Arabic deputy, Assad, gone bonkers; his wayward wife, Vigga, threatening to return; and his paralyzed partner, Hardy, in residence in his living room. To complicate matters further, a mysterious SOS in a bottle puts Mørck on the trail of one of the most cannily conceived serial child-killers imaginable. Mørck faces these heart-wrenchers, small and large, by perceiving them as essentially analogues to everything that Denmark’s welfare state has turned rotten—problems that are all immaterial, Mørck insists, as long as he’s doing his job. (May)
Library Journal
Danish crime writer Adler-Olsen delivers a third thriller as inventive and suspenseful as previous novels in the Department Q series (The Keeper of Lost Causes; The Absent One). Det. Carl Mørck and his unconventional team investigate cold cases long abandoned by the Copenhagen Police Force. A message in a bottle leads to a decades-old kidnapping that was never reported. Mørck soon realizes that not only were several crimes never reported, but the kidnapper is still at it, targeting the families of religious sects that are reluctant to involve the police. Managing the kidnapping investigation, a current arson case, office politics, and his tricky living situation, the wily cop proves he is still up for a challenge. VERDICT Adler-Olsen's cast might seem like stock crime-fiction characters at first glance—the curmudgeonly detective, the flighty secretary, the suspiciously resourceful assistant—but in his hands they are unpredictable and entertaining. This series has enough twists to captivate contemporary mystery readers and enough substance and background to entertain readers with historical and literary tastes. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]—Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Inspector Carl Mørck and his raffish colleagues at Copenhagen's Department Q (The Absent One, 2012, etc.) go up against a truly fiendish kidnapper. A few days after he and his brother Tryggve were abducted, Poul Holt managed to scrawl a plea for help in his own blood, deposit it in a bottle and toss it into the sea. Hundreds of miles away, the bottle made landfall and was turned over to Scottish police Sgt. David Bell, who made no attempt to open his discovery. Years passed. Bell died. A computer expert in his station smashed the bottle and immediately contacted Department Q, the perfect venue for the case since "it's old, it's unsolved, and no one else could be bothered." The group's assignment begins with trying to figure out, after all this time, what the message says, who wrote it and when. These tasks are made more difficult since no one reported any children missing at the time and place the message indicates. While Carl and his crew are working feverishly on the dead case, the kidnapper is at work bringing it very much back to life by targeting another pair of children, Magdalena Krogh and her big brother, Samuel. (The reason why he prefers to snatch two victims at a time is the story's most cunning secret, and its most disturbing.) Even after Carl and his Syrian assistant Hafez el-Assad have surmounted the obstacles thrown up by Poul Holt's parents, who insist that he's still alive, they'll have to overcome a much wider conspiracy of silence the kidnapper has been counting on to make accomplices of his victims' families for all these years. Less byplay among the regulars than usual, mainly since whenever promising domestic and group complications arise, Adler-Olsen lets them die on the vine. But the detection and thrills are authentic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611761627
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Series: Department Q Series , #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 364,058
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JUSSI ADLER-OLSEN is Denmark's #1 crime writer and a New York Times bestseller. His books routinely top the bestseller lists in Europe, and he's won many prestigious Nordic crime-writing awards, including the Glass Key Award—also won by Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø, Stieg Larsson, and Peter Høeg. He lives in Denmark.

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Read an Excerpt


It was the third morning, and the smell of tar and seaweed had got into his clothes. Under the boathouse floor, the mush of ice lapped soundlessly against the wooden stilts and awakened memories of days when everything had been all right.

He lifted his upper body from the bedding of waste paper and pulled himself sufficiently upright as to be able to make out his younger brother’s face, which even in sleep seemed tormented, chilled to the bone.

Soon, he would wake and glance around in panic. He would feel the leather straps tight around his wrists and waist and hear the jangle of the chain that constrained him. He would see the snowstorm and the light as it struggled to penetrate the tarred timber planks. And then he would start to pray.

Countless were the times desperation had sprung forth in his brother’s eyes. Through the heavy-duty tape that covered his mouth came the repeated sound of his muffled pleas that Jehovah have mercy upon them.

Yet both of them knew that Jehovah no longer paid heed, for blood had passed their lips. Blood that their jailer had let drip into their cups. The cups from which he had allowed them to drink before revealing to them what they had contained. They had drunk water, but in the water was blood, so forbidden, and now they were damned for ever. And for that reason, shame pierced deeper even than thirst.

What do you think he’ll do to us? his brother’s frightened eyes seemed so incessantly to ask. But how could he ever know the answer? All he knew was that he had an instinctive feeling that it would all soon be over.

He leaned backwards and scanned the room once again in the dim light, allowing his gaze to pass across the collar beams and through the formations of cobwebs, noting each and every projection, each and every knot. The worn paddles and oars that hung from the apex of the ceiling. The rotten fishing nets that had long since made their last catch.

And then he discovered the bottle. A gleam of sunlight played momentarily on the blue-white glass to dazzle him.

So near, and yet so hard to reach. It was just behind him, wedged between the thick, rough-hewn planks of the floor.

He stuck his fingers through the gap and tried to prise the bottle upwards by the neck, but the air froze upon his skin. When the thing came loose, he would smash it and use the shards to cut through the strap that kept his hands tied tight together behind his back. And when it succumbed, his numb fingers would find the buckle at his spine. He would loosen it, tear the tape from his mouth, remove the straps from around his waist and thighs, and as soon as the chain that was fastened to the leather strap at his waist no longer held him back, he would lunge forward and free his brother. He would draw him towards him and hold him tight until their bodies ceased to tremble.

Then, he imagined, he would use all his strength to gouge into the timber around the door with the broken glass. He would see if he could hollow out the planks on which the hinges were placed. And if the worst should happen and the car came before he was finished, he would lie in wait for the man. He would stand poised behind the door with the broken glass in his hand. That was what he told himself he would do.

He leaned forward, folded his freezing fingers behind his back and prayed for forgiveness for his wicked thought.

Then he scraped again in the space between the planks to try to free the bottle. He scraped and scratched until the neck angled enough for him to grab hold of it.

He listened.

Was that an engine? Yes, it was. The powerful engine of a large car. But was it approaching or simply passing by in the distance out there?

For a moment, the low, deep sound seemed to get louder. He began to pull so desperately at the neck of the bottle that his knuckles cracked audibly. But then the sound died away. Had it been the wind turbines, rumbling and whirring? Maybe it was something else entirely. He had no idea.

He expelled warm breath from his nostrils. It steamed the air around his face. He wasn’t so afraid any more, not now. As long as he thought about the grace of Jehovah, he felt better.

He pressed his lips together and laboured on. And when finally the bottle came free, he struck it so hard against the timber of the floor that his brother lifted his head with a startled jolt and looked around in terror.

Again and again, he brought the bottle down against the floor. It was hard to get purchase with his hands behind his back. Too hard. Eventually, when his fingers were no longer able to maintain their grip, he let the bottle slide from his hand, turned himself around and stared emptily at it as dust gently descended through the cramped space from the beams.

He couldn’t break it. He simply wasn’t able. A pathetic little bottle. Was it because they had drunk blood? Had Jehovah abandoned them?

He looked at his brother, who rolled himself slowly into his blanket and fell back on to his bedding. He was silent, not even attempting to mumble a word through the tape that sealed his lips.

It took a while to gather the things he needed. The hardest part was stretching himself, confined by his chain, to reach the tar between the roofing planks with the tips of his fingers. Everything else was at hand: the bottle, the sharp sliver of wood from the timbered floor, the paper on which he was sitting.

He pushed off one of his shoes and stabbed so sharply at his wrist with the sliver that tears welled in his eyes. He let the blood drip on to his polished shoe for a minute, perhaps two. Then he tore a large shred of paper from his bedding, dipped the wooden fragment in his blood and twisted his body, pulling at his chain, until he was able to see what he was writing behind his back. As best he could, and in the smallest of handwriting, he put down in words what was happening to them. When he had finished, he signed the letter with his name, rolled up the paper and stuffed it inside the bottle.

He allowed himself plenty of time to press the lump of tar down into the neck. He shifted his weight so as to see better, and checked and double-checked to make sure it was well done.

When finally there was no more to do, he heard the dull sound of a car engine. This time there was no mistake. He cast a pained glance at his little brother and stretched with all his might towards the light that seeped in through a broad crack in the timbered wall, the only opening through which the bottle would be able to pass.

Then the door was opened and a thick shadow entered amid a flurry of white snow.


And then the plop.

The bottle was released.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Intriguing Filled With Suspense

    Life at Department Q remains a mixed bag of chaos and order as Danish detective Carl Mørck and his Syrian assistant, Assad, go about their daily work. This time around they are helped temporary by Yrsa, who is a story all by herself. Narrator Graeme Malcolm does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. His interruption and mannerisms give each character their own distinct voice. His cadence with the emotional aspects of the story draws the listener in and holds them spellbound. Author Jussi Adler-Olsen brings his quirky characters back for a third installment in the Department Q series with A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH. The group takes on an old and unusual mystery when a message is discovered in a bottle. The note appears to be written in blood around 1996. It clearly reads ‘Help,’ but the elements have obscured much of the remaining words. Yrsa and Assad slowly piece the message together letter by letter. The team soon locate the parents of the note’s author. However, when contacted the family refuses to talk about the boy and won’t say whether he’s alive or dead. As they continue their search, Mørck and Assad find the boy’s brother that was with him when the note was written. In doing so, they discover a serial killer is preying on the fears of certain religious groups and getting away with not only kidnapping and extortion, but also murder. The closer the Department Q team gets to finding the killer, the closer he gets to pulling off another kidnapping scheme with deadly consequences. Mixed in with the search for the killer, Adler-Olsen gives readers a glimpse into the private lives of the Department Q team. In addition, he blends in antidotes of the police department’s daily activities. Adler-Olsen has created well-developed characters with his main members of Department Q. He has made them likable and realistic with their own unique quirks. In addition, he has a knack for presenting villains readers loathe, but can’t help but have moments of compassion for. He gives the killer an appalling childhood that shaped his outlook on life and his attitude toward certain religious sects. A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH is another intriguing case for Mørck and Assad with the help of Yrsa. Fans of suspense will find this book very appealing. FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was also sent to my by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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