This could be his last chance for a break-through as a journalist. When Barcelona based Joan Aiguader decides to write about a victim, the 2117th refugees who dies on the dangerous way across the Mediterranean Sea, he cannot anticipate that his article will shake Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case unit, or that he himself will soon fall in the hands of reckless terrorists. The poor woman who found death on Greek shores is well known to Assad, member of the famous and most successful unit within the Danish police. Lely Kababi once saved his life when his family had fled Iraq and now, so many years without the least information about her whereabouts, he sees her on a picture and next to her is his wife Marwa whom he has neither seen nor spoken for 16 years. Assad needs to get in touch, but he knows just from looking at the picture that this will not be easy since there is another person to be seen: his worst enemy who obviously is seeking revenge.
Jussi Adler-Olsen continues his Department Q series with a suspenseful and highly political instalment which combines current events with the story around the very special unit of the Danish law enforcement authorities. When I read the first novel, I immediately fell for the very peculiar characters Adler-Olsen created. They seemed to be quite a unique assortment of individuals who nevertheless managed to work well together and were highly successful due to their distinctive and diverse skills. All of them had a story which only slowly has been revealed throughout the different books, now it is time for Assad’s story, the most secretive of all.
I am not quite sure if I find Assad’s backstory totally convincing, but I grant it to literature to extent the borders of plausibility at times. Additionally, I am also not in the position to judge on what can happen in Middle East countries in times of war. Setting aside this aspect, I found the characters’ motivation very convincing – Assad’s as well as his opponent’s. I was quite happy to finally get an idea of his life before joining Department! Q which has always been quite blurry. And I totally adored how Adler-Olsen managed to combine this with current affairs that have been central to European politics for quite some time now. Especially the role of journalists – unfortunately only crucial at the very beginning – has been quite authentically portrayed.
The different points of view accelerate the action and lead to a high pace. It does not take long to be totally captured by the novel and again, the author has demonstrated that among the multitude of great Scandinavian crime writers, he surely is at the very top.
A curious accident turns out to be the beginning of an incredible series of murder. On a hot summer day, a car speeds through Helsingborg and is only stopped by the water front. The autopsy of the body reveals that he has been dead for at least two months, the body frozen. When Fabian Risk and his colleagues investigate the victim’s life, they come across a case of not just stolen identity, but also stolen millions from the rich man. Obviously a doppelgänger has taken over his life and transferred all his money. A great strategy and as it turns out, it has been working for quite some time already. While Fabian’s full attention is demanded at work, his marriage comes to an end. His wife seems to eventually make a big with her art work and his kids are immersed in other things. No one in the family pays attention to the other anymore which turns out to be a serious mistake, since all of them get in danger, again.
Part two of the Fabian Risk series is a psychological thriller that cleverly combines the detective’s police work with the developments in his private life. I liked the protagonist in this second novel a lot more than in the first since he now has become a real team player and not the single cop who can do all on his own. What I also liked is that his Danish colleague reappears and that her story, too, is continued.
At the beginning, the thriller starts with quite a strange case of murder and does not seem to turn out too complicated. Admittedly, for me having the two cases, one on the Swedish and one on the Danish side of the Øresund, seemed to be a classic setting with enough to solve for the two teams. Yet, Stefan Ahnhem could really surprise me with what a net of crime he has woven here. The more the novel advances the more you can just read and stare and admire the complexity of the plot. The action accelerates increasingly and this the further you get the harder it becomes to put it away. A great read and surely makes you eager to read more of Stefan Ahnhem.
Susan Svendsen is everything but an ordinary woman. And she and her family are in danger. She is offered a bad deal by the Danish government: use her special ability to provide them with an important information to have all charges against her dropped. Thinking of her twin kids, she has to agree and thus brings herself and her family even more in danger. But what is it about her gift? In Susan’s presence, everybody feels relaxed and comfortable, people cannot keep from sharing their best concealed secrets with her and she is to exploits this for the government. But the politicians have not counted on her intelligence and survival instinct and a most unfair battle begins.
Peter Høeg has made special women his protagonist before. Individuals with a supernatural sense and an extraordinary will to survive. In his latest novel, Susan is equipped with a skill that allows her to manipulate the people unperceivably which in itself is quite remarkable. But what make the character even more interesting is the combination with a straight down-to-earth intellect which does not accept anything outside the world of natural sciences. Susan can explain anything with her knowledge of physics and chemistry or biology, other fields such as music or religion just don’t reach her. This makes her contradictory and ambiguous in a very fascinating way.
The story itself is a fast-paced thriller which combines political complotting with action-packed chases and quite high number of cruel murders. However, the author never forgets his characters and their complicated relationships. The emotional facet blends in smoothly and thus adds to the cleverly constructed plot.
Underlying the whole story is a scenario which nowadays might still be considered something of the faraway future: parts of the planet will not be inhabitable due to climate change. How will we, how will our politicians react to this? If just a limited number of persons can be saved, who will be the selected few? As in other novels before, Høeg creates an extreme setting in which his characters are brought to the edge and have to make hard decisions, decisions about life and death. It seems to be a topic he liked, to play with how human being react in extreme situations. Thus, he provides us with the opportunity the think it through ourselves. Definitely a thriller with a lot of food for thought.