Review: Disgrace by Jussi Adler-Olsen


DisgraceDisgrace (American title: The Absent One) by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Penguin, 2012), Department Q series

Blurb: In The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen introduced Detective Carl Mørck, a deeply flawed, brilliant detective newly assigned to run Department Q, the home of Copenhagen’s coldest cases. The result wasn’t what Mørck—or readers—expected, but by the opening of Adler-Olsen’s shocking, fast-paced follow-up, Mørck is satisfied with the notion of picking up long-cold leads. So he’s naturally intrigued when a closed case lands on his desk: A brother and sister were brutally murdered two decades earlier, and one of the suspects—part of a group of privileged boarding-school students—confessed and was convicted.

But once Mørck reopens the files, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Looking into the supposedly solved case leads him to Kimmie, a woman living on the streets, stealing to survive. Kimmie has mastered evading the police, but now they aren’t the only ones looking for her. Because Kimmie has secrets that certain influential individuals would kill to keep buried . . . as well as one of her own that could turn everything on its head.


Last year I picked up The Keeper of Lost Causes based solely on the title, and was blown away. I’ve been keeping Disgrace on my reward shelf as a treat, and it definitely delivered. I would recommend reading these books in order, as some familiarity with the characters is assumed.

The characters make these books. Mørck is as sharp an investigator and as lovesick as ever; Assad continues to be mysterious in the best possible way (with hints dropped here and there that I assume will be fleshed out in subsequent books); and Rose, the new member of Department Q, by turns exasperates and impresses Mørck. Disgrace lacks the laugh-out-loud humor of Lost Causes, but it wouldn’t have felt right here. There’s still humor when Mørck and Assad interact, but it’s much lighter, and it balances the more grisly aspects of the story.

The bad guys in this book are intriguing, and they are the true focus: Kimmie, who lives on the streets, was once the darling of Danish high society—and she knows enough of her former friends’ secrets that they’ll do anything to keep her quiet. Her story is both chilling and tragic, and while I found myself drawn to her, I was repelled by her as well, which for me is a sign of a well-written character.

Much more a thriller than a mystery, Disgrace is full of twists and turns as the various dramas play themselves out. The climax of the book was as surprising as it was inevitable. Definitely a series to keep reading.


My rating: 5 stars


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