Mercy by Jussi Alder-Olsen

Contemporary police murder hunt set in Denmark

Copenhagen detective Carl Morck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns the disappearance of the politician Merete Lynggaard some five years ago. Of course everyone, including Morck, thinks she’s dead. That’s what it says on the tin. So what did I find inside?


The popular theme of cold cases, which runs so well on the box of late, is the basis for the first Q novel by Adler-Olsen. The likeable protagonist is typically from the loose-cannon mould of characters that seems to be the essential ingredient of such yarns. But best and unique is his assistant, who quietly steals the show for me. Between them they make their ill funded new department shine much brighter than all those with real resource. I doubt that such a scenario would ever be allowed in real police forces, but hey, this is fiction and is a nice skew on the norm.


The tale takes us from the prologue where the said Merete – it doesn’t take long for you to realise it’s her, so I’m not giving anything away here – is imprisoned, through the thankfully not too deep machinations of the Danish police system and the duo’s attempts to retrieve her. For me eighty pages could have been chopped in the back-half of this almost five-hundred page novel. I knew what the outcome was likely to be and so just wanted to get on with it but was impeded by too much scene detail and then a far too long an epilogue which failed to convince me of the practicalities of the outcome. Perhaps that’s why they were glossed over. And all the way I was expecting, waiting for the twist which didn’t happen. Her imprisonment however is of an unusual nature, for which full marks for something new.


This read was my first Scandi crime/thriller and I look forward to trying out more. There were one or two lines which perhaps didn’t translate too well. I had to read them a few times to be certain and was amused by some of the results. They didn’t spoil my pleasure though.


I don’t know how you feel about prologues and epilogues but when they are full blown chapters I don’t see the sense in not calling them so. And another tedious thing for me was the frequency in which the time shifted from 2007 to 2002 to 2007 to 2002 – you get the picture – at most of the first seventeen chapters. Then comes some relief as the flipping embraces; 2003, 2005 and so on and so on.


On the bright side Adler-Olsen has some great pieces of characterisation and descriptive writing. The way Morck is thinking about those he has to deal with is really good – and humorous. Fools and gladly are not two words that would sit well together for Morck.


I’d certainly try another out if only to see how Morck and Co rub along next time.


Edwin Tipple



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