New York Times bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen returns as Detective Carl Mørck and his Department Q team delve into a cold case that turns into more than they may be able to handle...
In 1987, Nete Hermansen plans revenge on those who abused her—especially Curt Wad, a surgeon who was part of a movement to sterilize wayward girls in the 1950s. More than twenty years later, Detective Carl Mørck already has plenty on his mind when he is presented with the case of a brothel owner, a woman named Rita, who went missing in the eighties: New evidence has emerged in the case that sent Carl to Department Q.
But when Carl’s assistants, Assad and Rose, learn that numerous other people disappeared around the same weekend as Rita, Carl takes notice. Sifting through the evidence, they inch closer to Curt Wad, who is still committed to his twisted beliefs, and whose treatment of Nete only hints at his capacity for evil.
About the Author
Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s #1 crime writer and a New York Times bestselling author. His books, including the Department Q series, routinely top the bestseller lists in Europe and have sold more than fifteen million copies around the world. His many prestigious Nordic crime-writing awards include the Glass Key Award, also won by Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø, Stieg Larsson, and Peter Høeg.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2013 by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Translation copyright © by Martin Aitken
The feeling could get the better of her in an unguarded moment. The cool, delicate champagne glass between her fingers, the hum of voices, and the light hand of her husband at her waist. Apart from being in love, only brief flashbacks of a distant childhood reminded her of it. The security of her grandmother’s chatter. Subdued laughter as she fell into a slumber. The laughter of people long since gone.
Nete pressed her lips together to stem the emotion. Sometimes it got the better of her.
She collected herself and gazed out upon the palette of colorful evening gowns and proud figures. The celebratory banquet in honor of the Danish recipient of the year’s Nordic Prize for Medicine had drawn many guests. Scholars, physicians, pillars of society. Circles into which she certainly hadn’t been born but in which she nevertheless had come to feel increasingly comfortable as the years passed.
She took a deep breath and was about to let out a contented sigh when she became acutely aware that a pair of eyes had latched onto her through the array of festive coiffures and men in tight bow ties. The inexplicable, unsettling charges of electricity only ever emitted by eyes that wished no good. Instinctively she moved aside, like a hunted animal seeking cover in undergrowth. She put her hand on her husband’s arm and tried to smile as her gaze flickered across the shimmer guests and the elegantly dressed of the candelabra.
A woman tossed back her head in a moment’s laughter, suddenly opening up a clear view to the rear end of the hall.
And there he stood.
His figure towered like a lighthouse above all the others. Despite the stooping posture and crooked legs, a great, strutting wild animal whose eyes swept over the crowd like a pair of searchlights.
Again she sensed his intense surveillance to the very core of her being and knew for certain that if she didn’t react now her entire life would collapse in seconds.
“Andreas,” she said, putting her hand to her throat, which was already sticky with perspiration. “Can’t we leave now? I’m not feeling well.”
Further entreaty was unnecessary. Her husband raised his dark eyebrows, nodded to those nearest, and turned away from the throng, taking her arm in his. It was typical of him, and she loved him for it.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m afraid it’s my headache again.”
He nodded, all too familiar with the affliction himself. Long, dark evenings in the drawing room, his migraine pounding.
It was yet another thing they had in common.
As they approached the majestic staircase the tall man stole forward and stepped in front of them.
He looked much older now, she noted. The eyes that once had sparkled had lost their luster. His hair was unrecognizable. Twenty-five years had taken their toll.
“Nete, are you here? You’re the last person I would have expected to see in such company,” he said bluntly.
She stepped to one side and drew her husband past, but her stalker was undeterred. “Don’t you remember me, Nete?” came his voice from behind. “Of course you do. Curt Wad. How could you ever forget me?”
Halfway down the stairs he caught up with them.
“So you’re Rosen’s tart now, is that it? Imagine you, of all people, reaching such heights.”
She tugged at her husband’s arm to hasten him along, but Andreas Rosen was not known for turning his back on a problem. The present situation was no exception.
“Would you be so kind as to leave my wife alone?” he asked, his words accompanied by a glare that warned of rage.
“Oh, I see.” The unwelcome guest took a step backward. “So you’ve actually lured Andreas Rosen into your web, Nete. Well done.” He flashed what others might have taken to be a wry smile, but she knew better. “That piece of information seems to have completely passed me by, I’m afraid. But then I don’t usually frequent such circles. Never read the gossip magazines.”
In slow motion she saw her husband shake his head in disdain. Felt the grip of his hand on hers as he drew her on. For a moment she was able to breathe again. Their footsteps clattered, asynchronous echoes, urging them away.
They reached the downstairs cloakroom before the voice behind them spoke once more.
“Mr. Rosen! Perhaps you are unaware that your wife is a whore? A simple girl from Sprogø who isn’t fussy about who she opens her legs for. Her feeble mind cannot distinguish between truth and lies, and—”
She felt a wrench of her wrist as her husband spun round. Several guests were trying to subdue the man who had interrupted their festivities. A couple of younger doctors leaned menacingly toward the tall man’s chest, making it clear he was not wanted there.
“Andreas, don’t,” she shouted as her husband stepped toward the cluster of individuals that now surrounded her tormentor, but he was oblivious. Her alpha male was marking out his territory.
“I don’t know who you are,” he said, “but I strongly suggest you refrain from showing yourself in public again until you’ve learned how to behave in decent company.”
The thin figure raised his head above the men who were holding him back and everyone present focused on his moistureless lips: the ladies behind the counter who were sorting the furs from the cotton coats, guests slinking their way past, the private chauffeurs waiting in front of the swing doors.
And then came the words that should never have been uttered.
“Why don’t you ask Nete where she was sterilized? Ask her how many abortions she’s had. Ask her what an isolation cell feels like after five days. Ask her, and leave lecturing me on social skills to your betters, Andreas Rosen.”
Curt Wad extracted himself from those restraining him and stepped aside, eyes aflame with hatred. “I’m leaving now!” he spat. “And you, Nete!” He extended a trembling finger toward her. “You can go to hell, where you belong.”
The room was a buzz of voices even before the swing doors closed behind him.
“That was Curt Wad,” someone whispered. “An old student friend of the prizewinner, which is about the only good thing that can be said of him.”
But the trap had sprung. She had been revealed.
All eyes were upon her now. Searching for signs of her true self. Was her neckline too plunging? Were her hips too vulgar? Were her lips?
They collected their coats, and the cloakroom lady’s warm breath felt almost poisonous. You’re no better than me, her expression said.
It happened that quickly.
She lowered her gaze and took her husband’s arm.
Her beloved husband, whose eyes she hadn’t the courage to look into.
She listened to the quiet purr of the engine. They had not spoken a word to each other, staring past the swish of the windshield wipers into the autumn darkness through which they passed.
Perhaps he was waiting for her denials, but she had none to offer.
Perhaps she was expecting him to accommodate her. To help her out of her predicament. To look into her eyes and tell her it didn’t matter, whatever it was, and that what counted were the eleven years they had been together.
Not the thirty-seven she had lived before that.
But he turned on the radio and filled the car with jangling remoteness, Sting accompanying them south across Sjælland, Sade and Madonna over Falster and the Guldborgsund strait to Lolland. Strange, young voices in the night. The only thing that bound them together.
Everything else was gone.
A few hundred meters before the village of Blans, still a couple of kilometers from the manor farm, he pulled in to the edge of the fields.
“Now tell me,” he said, his gaze fastened to the darkness outside. His words were without warmth. He didn’t even utter her name by way of comfort. All he had was Tell me!
She closed her eyes. Pleaded with him to understand there were underlying events that explained everything, and that the man who had confronted her was the very cause of her misfortune.
But apart from that, what he had said had been the truth. She admitted it, her voice a whisper.
It was true. All of it.
For an agonizing, all-consuming moment only his breathing was heard. Then he turned toward her with darkness in his eyes. “So that’s why we’ve never been able to have children,” he said.
She nodded. Pressed her lips together and told it like it was. Yes, she was guilty of lies and deceit. She came clean. As a young girl she had been committed to Sprogø, through no fault of her own. A chain of misunderstandings, abuse of power, betrayal. There was no other reason. And yes, she’d had abortions and had been sterilized, but the dreadful man they had just encountered . . .
He laid his hand on her arm, and its coldness went through her like an electric shock, prompting her to stop.
Then he put the car into gear, released the clutch, and drove slowly through the village before accelerating quickly past the meadows and the darkened view of the water.
“I’m sorry, Nete. But I can’t forgive your allowing me to live all these years blindly believing we could become parents together. I simply can’t. And as for the rest of what you’ve told me, quite frankly I’m disgusted.”
He paused, and she felt an icy tingle at her temples, the muscles of her neck tensing.
He raised his head. Arrogantly, the way he did when negotiating with people he deemed unworthy of his respect. Confidently, as when ignoring poor advice.
“I shall pack some things,” he said firmly. “In the meantime, you have a week to make other arrangements. Take whatever you need from Havngaard. You won’t be left wanting.”
She turned her face slowly away from him and stared out over the sea. Rolled the window down slightly and drew in the smell of seaweed borne by waves as black as ink, waves that might take her once and for all.
And the feeling returned to her of lonely, desperate days on Sprogø, when the same lapping sea had tried to lure her into putting an end to her miserable life.
“You won’t be left wanting,” he had said, as though it mattered.
He knew nothing about her.
She glanced at her watch and fixed the date in her mind, the fourteenth of November 1985, and felt her lips quiver as she turned to look at him.
His dark eyes were cavities in his face. Only the bends in the road ahead claimed his interest.
She lifted one hand slowly and grasped the steering wheel, wrenching it to the right as hard as she could just as he opened his mouth in protest.
The engine roared in vain as the road vanished beneath them, and as they hurtled through the windbreak the sound of rasping metal drowned out her husband’s final protests.
When they hit the sea it, was almost like coming home.
What People are Saying About This
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)
“Plan on putting everything else in your life on hold if you pick up this book.” — The Oregonian
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Adler-Olsen just keeps getting better. The three main characters are developed even more in this novel, with all manner of quirky "attributes" which is part of the suspense. Sarcastic humor adds a bit of relief when needed. Highly recommend!
One of his best yet...I absolutely fell right in to the story in the prologue. His writing is magnificent and leaves me wanting the next novel !!
I love when a book can surprise me and this one certainly did. I've read all the books in this series and I think this is the best.
As A Dane, just like the author, I have enjoyed that I can buy Scandinavian crime stories like the "Department Q" and the "Harry Hole" series. I love the way that Jussi Adler Olsen builds his stories, and how he he is able to weave little everyday quirky , and typical Danish, things into his stories. It makes the persons very realistic and down to earth. No big heroes as such, but real people that goes around and do their jobs in a solid and believable way. He doesn't let the characters solve the problems in a fancy way, rather the contrary. Comment should also go to the translator, who has done a great job in getting the Danish behavior and way of seeing things, be as close as I can imagine they were in the original language. All of the "Department Q" books are highly recommended and worth the time to read.
The authors best yet. Could not put it down l liked rhe parts with Carl, Rose, and Assad. I found myself belly laughlng outright several times. I did not ejoy the parts obout The plight of the girls on that island too real and harsh he spent too much time in rhis area however i ejoyed, as l said before, the humorous parts of the book
In Denmark's police, Department Q deals with cold cases. Detective Carl Morck is relegated to cold cases after a tragedy ended a case that he had been working on. Now he reluctantly finds himself dragged into a fourth case with his unusual mysterious assistants, Assad and Rose. While investigating the disappearance of a brothel owner, Rita, they discover that five people disappeared that same day and were never found these twenty odd years later. This case goes back and forth between 1987 and today. The Purity Party has been growing secretly through time, with the goal of aborting and sterilizing , illegally if necessary, all those dreamed inferior--those of any ethnic background other than Caucasian, those of inferior minds, and those who are poor and a drain on the system. Since childhood when her mom died, Nete Hermansen, has had abuse and further abuse helped upon her. Though she had a period where she fooled the world, that changed suddenly one day, by her own hand. Then she planned an elaborate revenge on everyone who wronged her. These Department Q books are full of sinister behavior and down right evil, but Adler used Assad and Rose as great comic relief within his books. Carl gets pulled and drawn into these cases almost against his will, but then he goes full 'life threatening' force into the investigations. These things really draw the reader into these remarkable mysteries. I suggest starting at the beginning of this series to get the full effect of the recurring characters. I listened to this on Audible and found it added a great deal to my enjoyment if this story.
It’s hard to believe that the western European nation of Denmark, for almost four decades, condemned women deemed to be prostitutes, “pathologically promiscuous,” feebleminded, among other “indications of less desirable social attitudes,” to an offshore island where they were kept, perhaps mistreated and even sterilized to prevent them from breeding children who might be a “burden” on society. It apparently came to an end in the 1960’s, but the plot of this latest Department Q novel is based on this history. Carl Morck, who heads the department charged with reviewing and solving cold cases, and his assistants, Assad and Rose, undertake such a case, that of a missing woman named Rita, a madam, which leads them to the island of Sprogo, where the women were sent. As they progress in the investigation, they learn more and more about a doctor named Curt Wad, who leads a group known as the Purity Party, which espouses the principles which guided the Sprogo efforts, not unlike the Nazi program of ethnic purification. The book’s title, of course, is a play on Wad’s movement, which seemed headed for the political scene and a place in parliament, and a plan of one of his victims who was sent to the island. Once again the Danish mystery writer has created a memorable novel, a mystery combined with deep material that captures the reader’s mind. Highly recommended.
I've read all of Mr Adler-Olsen's books. I love his characters Carl, Assad & Rose. This book was my favorite. Can't wait for the new Dept Q book.
Jussi Adler-Olsen’s new Department Q mystery weaves together a dark episode in Denmark’s past with a tale of long-delayed revenge. In 1985, Nete Rosen had put behind her the horrors of her childhood and youth that climaxed with her becoming a ward of the state and being forcibly sterilized. But an encounter with Curt Wad, the doctor who started the process that almost destroyed her, ruins the happiness she’d found and almost kills her. Two years later, physically recovered but still emotionally devastated, Nete returns to her maiden name of Hermansen and creates a list of seven names. They are the people most responsible for the crimes committed against her when she was a teenager. In 2010, Detective Carl Morck and his assistants – Rose, who occasionally takes on one of her sisters’ personalities, and Assad, whose life is an enigma – are given the cold case of a brothel owner who disappeared in 1987. As they dig, they find a startling pattern of six disappearances at the same time that are somehow tied to Dr. Curt Wad. While in his 90’s, Wad is still vital and is on the verge of launching his Right-wing Purity Party as a force in Danish politics. Beneath that cover, though, Wad has waged a lifelong campaign against those he considers inferiors, and controls a network of true believers who preform unnecessary abortions and sterilizations on immigrants or low-class women. Department Q deals with cold cases that require special handling, and no case fits that better than the 1987 disappearances. Carl, Rose and Assad learn that there are people who want to prevent the investigation by any means, including murdering the detectives. Adler-Olson weaves together the stories of Carl’s investigation, Nete’s revenge, and her youth in the 1950s, telling the concurrently in a way that both increases the novel’s poignancy and horror. It draws you in and grabs your attention, and won’t let go even after you turn the final page. Reviewed by David Ingram for Suspense Magazine
Love this series.
"The people who built this place did." Smiles *i gtgtb sorry its so early* he walks back to the city