The Keeper of Lost Causes: the First Department Q Novel

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By Jussi Adler-Olsen; translated by Lisa Hartford

Few colleagues welcome homicide detective Carl Mørk’s return from sick leave after being injured in a shooting that left one colleague dead and a second paralyzed for life.

As one co-worker describes him, Mørk is “indolent, surly, morose, always bitching, and he treats his colleagues like crap, so the team is about to fall apart. He’s a thorn in our side . . .”

The department is scrambling to deal with several major crimes and barely surviving with Mørk in the mix.

Then a brilliant solution opens up: Parliament members have been ranting about unsolved criminal cases and build the support to fund a special department, “Q,” to exclusively handle cases “deserving special scrutiny.”

Police higher-ups realize they can promote Mørk to head Department Q, get him out of his colleagues’ hair and funnel several million kroner of funding into the Homicide Department budget.

Left to his own devices, Mørk leisurely sorts through old, unsolved cases. The case that snags his attention, in part because it has a large and well-organized case file, is the supposed drowning of Parliament member Merete Lynggaard.

She was on a ferry with her disabled younger brother Uffe for a short vacation trip to Berlin, when she vanished. People had seen the two struggling at the deck rail at one point. Uffe had wandered off the ferry when it docked in Germany and was eventually picked up.  He was unable to provide additional details.

This story weaves back and forth between 2002 when Lynggaard disappeared and 2007 as Mørk investigates. With some crafty manipulation, he gets his boss to approve an assistant, a Syrian refugee named Assad.

Mørk’s opposite in temperament, Assad is able to charm resources and help from secretaries and gate-keepers who wouldn’t exchange the time of day with Mørk. While he refuses to talk about what led to his leaving Syria, he knows his way around a police report.

Readers get a split screen view of this story as chapters alternate from Lynggaard’s fate and Mørk’s and Assad’s efforts to find leads in a seemingly impossible case.

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (2011) was followed by
  • THE ABSENT ONE (2012)
  • VICTIM 2117 (2020)

About the Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen (1950 – )

Carl Valdemar Jussi Henry Adler-Olsen was the son of sexologist and psychiatrist Henry Olsen and grew up in the official doctors’ residences of several mental hospitals across Denmark. As a teenager, he played lead guitar in a couple of pop groups. After high school, he studied, medicine, sociology (history of modern politics) and filmmaking until 1978.
He worked as an editor, publisher and entrepreneur before becoming a full-time writer in 1995. He made his debut as a nonfiction author in 1985 with a book on comedian Groucho Marx. Since 1997, he has primarily written fiction writer. Several of his books have been adapted to film in Denmark.
Many of his books have won awards throughout Scandinavia, Europe and the United States, including a 2012 Barry Award for Best Novel of 2012 for THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, and a 2010 Glass Key Award given by the Scandinavian Crime Society.


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