There aren't a lot of TV programmes I make an effort to watch but the show Cold Case used to be one of them. When I read the synopsis for this book it sounded like it could be along similar lines so picqued my interest. The author is considered Denmark's premier crime writer and has won various crime-writing awards which made it even more attractive to me, a lover of a good crime novel.
Carl Morck is a homicide detective who has just returned from work after a period of leave. His last visit to a crime scene left one colleague dead, another seriously injured and Morck with wounds of his own, including self-imposed ones as he blames himself for not doing more to save them. When he does return he is initially amazed to find he has been promoted until he finds himself working in the basement as the head of a the brand new Department Q, tasked with reviewing (and ideally solving) cold cases.
This is the first crime novel I think I have read based in Scandinavia and at the start of the book I was a little concerned about keeping track of such unfamiliar place names, and that I was missing out on some cultural references. However I needn't have worried, the place names weren't all that important and any references I might have missed didn't impact upon the plot.
I felt that the book was a bit slow in getting started, but once the story took off and gathered pace I was keen to keep reading and find out how the various threads to the story would play out. The story accelerates to a dramatic conclusion. Having read that this is the first installment of a Department Q series there is a reasonable argument that setting up how the Department comes about is important in the wider scheme of things. I found the author's style economical with descriptions but without sacrificing too much detail, a welcome change from some other books I have read recently which have been unduly wordy.
The book is told from Morck's viewpoint and that of politician Merete Lynggaard, whose disappearance years before was never solved. It also moves around in time, but moves are well signposted, and although at the beginning it isn't entirely clear how the two narratives link up it soon becomes obvious. Carl is a man with flaws, and plenty of them, but I found myself liking him for the way he deals with all of the problems he encounters. However I felt Merete and the other characters were less well developed, although there is plenty of scope for some of them in future installations.
I liked the plot, but won't say anymore to avoid giving the game away, and although the first part felt laboured the rest of the book redeemed itself and I'd be interested in reading future episodes in this series.
Format: E-book, advance review copy - anticipated release date 18th Aug 2011
My rating: 4*