I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Detective Carl Mørck holds in his hands a bottle that contains old and decayed message, written in blood. It is a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren’t they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?
Carl’s investigation will force him to cross paths with a woman stuck in a desperate marriage- her husband refuses to tell her 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 her husband—or to herself.
Carl and his colleagues Assad and Rose must use all of their resources to uncover the horrifying truth in this heart-pounding Nordic thriller from the #1 international bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen.
I like Detective Carl Mørck, despite a couple of his unlovable characteristics—he is quite a prejudiced guy, not really giving his assistants, Assad and Rose, much credit. He is also a gold-bricker, trying his very best to sleep through his final years in the cold case division before retirement. Despite his intentions, the case of this mysterious letter, written in blood and pleading for help, eventually galvanizes him into action and even into danger. It takes a lot of prodding on his assistants’ part to get Mørck moving, but eventually he is taking the situation seriously and starts to expect more of them in return.
The translation of this work annoyed me somewhat, however—the translator used British idioms, some of which sounded silly in the conversation of a Danish investigator. There were an awful lot of people who “couldn’t be arsed to do something.” Not a common turn of phrase in North America, although easily understood. There were several mentions of “stroppy teenagers,” which I’m guessing is a shortening of obstreperous. I found those things rather distracting, but decipherable. Those are the two that stick in my memory, although I remember having to decode another couple of expressions.
What I’m now wondering about is how much of the racism in the book (directed mostly toward Assad, the Syrian immigrant on police staff) is in the original and how much was influenced by the translator. Assad is referred to as a “camel driver” on one occasion, is shown getting into a fist fight with an Iranian officer [presumably about country-of-origin issues], and being less than truthful about where he lives. Much is made of how dark his skin and hair are and how much he stands out from the rest of the staff. I was relieved that by the book’s end, Mørck is treating him much more like an equal, valuing his input and his back-up in the field. Assad is definitely willing to work and finds all kinds of connections to current cases, stirring up several investigations and being the brains behind the operation on several occasions. And he is certainly the muscle during stressful situations. Mørck also comes to value Rose more highly and perhaps not to judge her by her appearance and gender.
Her work assignments also gain in importance as things progress and she gets treated more kindly.
In addition, there is a confusing situation in which Mørck’s former common-law wife takes up with a man of Indian origin—although Carl wanted her to find someone else & move on, he still seems affronted that she has chosen an Indian man and once again, skin colour and turban are referenced in uncomplimentary ways.
I think my Canadian-ness may be showing through here, as we are quite used to have a multi-ethnic society and think nothing of encountering Asian, Arab, African, etc. people on an everyday basis. [I found that as a very-white Caucasian, I really stood out in some areas of China that I visited and people would be quite pushy about wanting to be photographed with our tour group because we were considered so unusual. Since I have cousins who have Chinese and Korean ancestry, it took me a while to figure out what the fuss was about].
Enough of the anthropological dissection of the novel, however, on to the rest of the book! The action is well-planned and engrossing, plus the villain is suitably deadly, cunning, and mysterious. The plot is sufficiently convoluted to keep the reader interested. The exploration of religions of various sorts in a secular society also adds to the mix. Excellent summer reading!