From the Publisher
Praise for A Conspiracy of Faith
“A shattering parable of honest individuals caught up in the corruption of our times.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"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."
—Library Journal (starred review)
“[T]his mix of offbeat departmental politics, puzzling clues, and pulse pounding pursuit delivers the goods.”
Praise for The Absent One:
“Adler-Olsen, Denmark’s leading crime fiction author, outdoes his outstanding debut, The Keeper of Lost Causes, with his second Department Q novel.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Adler-Olsen has created a wonderful addition to the detective fiction genre in his sleuth….While the book can be read as a stand-alone novel, readers will be unable to resist seeking out and devouring the first and subsequent series titles.” — Library Journal (starred review)
Praise for The Keeper of Lost Causes:
“The pages fly by as the twisty puzzle unfolds. Stieg Larsson fans will be delighted.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[An] absorbing psychological thriller.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Comparisons [to Stieg Larsson] are inevitable and, while he may lack a Salander, Adler-Olsen’s prose is superior to Larsson’s, his tortures are less discomfiting, and he has a sense of humor.”— Booklist (starred review)
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)
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
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.
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.
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.