I still don’t quite know what to think of this book. I flew through the last half because once the plot picked up, it didn’t let off the gas. The central mystery, a missing-person case from the cold files, was intriguing and cleverly executed. The ending was creative and not terribly predictable. The book has won awards and is an international bestseller.
But but but.
The bar in my mind for Nordic crime writing has been set really, really obnoxiously high. I’m not only referring to Stieg Larsson’s megaselling Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, although those were amazing, with their breakneck pace and kickass heroine-bad-girl Lisbeth Salander. I’m mostly referring to Jo Nesbo and his fan-freaking-tastic Harry Hole series.
Never heard of it? That might be because not all of his titles have yet been translated from Norwegian. But the ones that have are absolute perfection. Harry Hole is a detective with a major dark side. He has the swagger of John Wayne, but a constant impulse towards self-destruction. He almost always gets his man, but he will probably get his ass kicked a few times in the process. He’s not suave or sophisticated, and his many scars prevent him from being very attractive. Despite his imperfections, Harry is a total badass, and one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever read in fiction period, let alone crime fiction.
But I digress. This is supposed to be a recommendation for Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes. Right. It was good. Like I said, interesting cold case. Missing politician with a tragic past. Irritable police officer for a main character, who nearly everyone on the police force hates. Inscrutable foreign sidekick janitor who plays partner detective. Dramatic acceleration to the ending with lots of danger (and bombs!). All the elements are there. It’s a good read, and if you enjoy crime fiction, you’ll probably like it.
All I’m saying is, you should probably read it before you read Jo Nesbo. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself, like me, comparing detective Carl Morck to Harry Hole and finding he doesn’t measure up. So that’s the takeaway on this one: read this book, then read these other books I think are better. You’re welcome.