Book review: Redemption, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 5:44pm

by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Penguin Books
5 stars

Guy Haydon

The snail's pace of translations into English of Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen's critically acclaimed series of four novels, featuring insubordinate detective Carl Morck, means each book appears four years after the original. After Mercy and Disgrace, we are now up to number three, Redemption. Each one has been well worth the wait.

All of the standalone stories, deftly mixing brutal, bloody violence, touching moments and quirky humour, are cold-case investigations by Morck and his small team, Department Q.

In Redemption, one of two young brothers, locked in a remote boathouse, finds a small glass bottle. He stabs himself with a sliver of wood, writes a message on a scrap of paper, then seals it in the bottle with tar - just as their abductor unlocks the door.

Years later, Morck receives a parcel containing shattered glass fragments and a faded, partly obliterated message - but the word "HELP" is clearly written in dried blood. What seems, at first, to be a hopeless cause soon develops into a bigger, far-reaching mystery, involving other boys and girls who had been abducted and were never seen again.

A mystery man leaves his lonely wife and young baby at home to sit, hidden, among trees, watching a group of youngsters playing while trying to decide which of them will be the next to disappear.

Elsewhere, a charred body is discovered after an office fire. Then Morck learns of other fires and more charred bodies.

Adler-Olsen's expert pacing cranks up the slow-burn tension, increasingly teasing us with cliffhangers as he deftly switches to a different, slowly converging strand of his chilling narrative. He leaves us stunned as we follow the monstrous, ice-cold killer, who delights in his deadly plans; frantic - almost wanting to shout a warning to his unsuspecting victims; and desperate as we root for the initially jaded, yet ultimately inspiring Morck.

Still haunted by a police shootout that killed one colleague and maimed another, Morck needs all the help he can get as he and his sidekick, Assad, slowly struggle to make sense of the incidents and tie them together. Brilliant.