31 May 2015

Big books from a small country

Jussi Adler-Olsen is touted on a cover of one his books as "Denmark's number one crime writer." I think that means he's the number one writer of crime fiction. He's part of the highly touted Nordic mystery writers group. Thank Stieg Larsson for getting publishers and many readers to pay attention. Well, there are others to thank as well. Many of them I've written about here since I'm part of the fan club. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greenland, and Iceland and all the little islands near them (even though some are parts of Scotland now). Of course, American audiences only get to see the really good ones, I presume.

Adler-Olsen is very good. At least the two books of his I read in the past few months have been very good. They are both copyright 2014, though it's difficult to imagine them being produced simultaneously.

The primary characters in the books I've seen are Detective Carl Mørck, his assistant Assad and secretary Rose. Mørck is a "retired" cop who has been put in charge of Department Q, the section of the cop shop that deals with old, open cases. There are three people in Department Q. Like many detectives in the literary world, Mørck has been pushed into his position because he didn't play well with bureaucracy and protocol and hierarchy. It also gives the author more leeway in inventing story lines.

Adler-Olsen wrote both of these books by telling two stories: one from the past (that activates Department Q) and one from the present (which brings Mørck into conflict with the bosses who exiled him to the basement offices of Q).

The story from the past is told in a pretty straight forward way (although interrupted by chapters set in the present). But the story set in the present, because it involves learning about the story from the past relates the discovery of events from the past in chronologically reverse order (Mørck learns about the most recent things first).

While reading, I imagine Adler-Olsen with two time lines on his desk, one for each story. And he draws lines connecting things in the past with things in the present. That way he keeps clear what the people in the present know about the past, and he keeps things revealed about the past relevant to events in the present.

Hey, and not one word about present or past tenses, until now.

Both books are good and I enjoyed reading them. In Conspiracy of Faith, Department Q is assigned to investigate a message found in a bottle in the ocean near Greenland. The paper in the bottle leads everyone to think its origin is Denmark. The message is only partly readable, but it might imply a murder.

In the course of investigating the message from the bottle, Mørck uncovers more recent crimes that might be connected to the old one. And one of the clues is that they all involve tiny Christian cults that have tried to separate themselves from the evil world.

In The Purity of Vengeance, Department Q begins investigating new evidence in a 30-year disappearance. When Assad and Rose discover that a number of other people disappeared on same weekend three decades ago, and that a couple of the people on the fringes of several cases are still acting strangely, the hunt is on.

I think I liked The Purity of Vengeance better, but that might be because I read that one second and had figured out the method in Adler-Olsen's writing. In any case, I liked reading both books -- well, as much as I can enjoy reading about awful crimes committed by awful people. I haven't yet resolved that one. Have you?
Have you read any of Adler-Olsen's books? How did you like them? Write (Reading@SideTrack.org). Tell this little bit of the world about your reactions.

No comments: