Review: A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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A Conspiracy of FaithA Conspiracy of Faith (British title: Redemption) by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton Adult, 2013)

Department Q series #3

 

Blurb: Two boys, brothers, wake tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. Their kidnapper has gone, but soon he will return. Their bonds are inescapable.
But there is a bottle and tar to seal it. Paper and a splinter for writing; blood for ink. A message begging for help…

Her husband will not tell the truth: where he goes, what he does, how long he will be away. For days on end she waits 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 Copenhagen’s cold cases division Carl Morck has received a bottle. It holds an old and decayed message, written in blood. It is a cry for help from two boys. Is it real? Who are they and why weren’t they reported missing? Can they possibly still be alive?

 

A Conspiracy of Faith is the third book in the Department Q series, which chronicles the accidental creation and subsequent success of a Copenhagen cold case squad. Detective Carl Mørck would rather be napping, but he manages to direct the efforts of Assad, his enigmatic Syrian deputy who grows more intriguing with every page, and Rose, his chameleon-like assistant.

A detective in Scotland contacts Mørck with a message in a bottle that was discovered many years ago by a colleague, and subsequently forgotten. The note, written in blood, is a plea for help: a young boy and his brother have been kidnapped, and their death is imminent. Mørck and his team must determine the identity and the fate of the writer—no easy task given the culture of silence that permeates non-mainstream religious sects in Scandinavia—and the kidnapper.

As with previous books in the series, this is not a mystery but a thriller that relies on psychological insight, deft plotting and nonstop action to build and maintain suspense right up until the very end. Well-placed humor keeps the book from being overly stark, and although the heart of the story is the kidnapper and his victims, we do get to know Mørck and his colleagues a bit better—just enough clues to keep me wanting more. In the hands of a less capable author the team might come across as a grouping of stereotypes—Assad’s unusual turns of phrase are a running gag—but three books in, the characters come across as genuine, and genuinely fond of each other beneath the constant ribbing.

While the main plot was compelling, the side plot, which involved Serbian gang activity apparently connected to arson in Denmark, was distracting and at times a bit confusing. Assad’s insights were crucial to the arson investigation, which gained him some (well-deserved) respect in the police department, and I’m hoping this is going to lead to more of his story in future books.

One last note: the translator did a fantastic job, in my opinion—translating humor isn’t easy, especially humor that relies on wordplay, and it seemed effortless here.

 

This ARC was provided by Penguin via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

My rating: 5 stars

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