The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is the second book in the Department Q series — though you don’t have to read the previous one to follow along with this one — and Detective Carl Mørck is leading the new department with his assistant Assad in Copenhagen, Denmark. This department’s focus is cold cases, reopening them to find new clues with fresh eyes, and what Mørck finds is a little more is disturbing. Reviewing a case of murders from 1987 that involved a gang of young men and women, the detective, Assad, and his new assistant Rose Knudsen are forced to reassess their world view and the motivations of killers.
Adler-Olsen creates a set of murders that are not only over-the-top, but the perpetrators are as well. Their hyped-up sense of pleasure from beatings, killings, and torture is reminiscent of the television show American Horror Story. Some of these killers come from the upper echelons of society, and like those before them, they believe they are untouchable because of their place in society and what they have accomplished. It’s clear that these accomplishments are not enough to sustain their attention or satisfaction; these are men and women who are dissatisfied with their success and are seduced by the dark side (pun intended). Despite these absurdly crazy characters, and the absent one from the murderous gang who seems to stay enough on the radar to attract the attention of Detective Mørck but not her cohorts, the story has great tension and a layered revealing of events that keep readers hooked.
The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is a well paced thriller with bits of comedic banker between Mørck, Assad, and Rose that will leave readers wondering about what they missed in book one if they start here. This seems like a series readers will get sucked into without really knowing how. The unusual characters, the foreign setting for U.S. readers, and the noir quality of the situations will entice readers to enter Adler-Olsen’s world cautiously.
About the Author:
Author Jussi Adler-Olsen began in the 1990s to write novels after having followed a comprehensive career as publisher, editor, film composer for the Valhalla-cartoon and as bookseller.
He made his debut with the thriller “Alfabethuset” (1997), which reached bestseller status both in Denmark and internationally just like his subsequent novels “And She Thanked the Gods” (prev. “The Company Basher”) (2003) and “The Washington Decree” (2006). The first book on Department Q is “Kvinden I buret” (2007) and the second “Fasandræberne” (2008). The main detective is Deputy Superintendent Carl Morck from the Department Q and he is also the star of the third volume, “Flaskepost fra P” which was released in the fall of 2009 and secured Adler-Olsen ”Readers’ Book Award” from Berlingske Tidende-readers, the Harald Mogensen Prize as well as the Scandinavian Crime Society’s most prestigious price ”Glass Key”. The fourth volume in the Department Q series, “Journal 64” was published in 2010 and he was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime-prize of “The Golden Laurels” for this in 2011”. In December 2012 the fifth novel was published, “Marco Effekten”.
About the Translator:
K. E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, Washington Post, World Literature Today, Southern Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His translations include books by Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Erik Valeur, Jussi Adler Olsen, Simon Fruelund and, forthcoming in winter 2016, Jesper Bugge Kold. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the Danish Arts Foundation and is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow.