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The Keeper of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen,  Lisa Hartford ”She’d been lying on the floor thinking about books. That was something she often did in order not to think about the life she might have had if only she’d made different choices. When she thought about books, she could move into a whole different world. Just remembering the feeling of the dry surface and inexplicable roughness of the paper could ignite a blaze of yearning inside of her. The scent of evaporated cellulose and printer’s ink. Thousands of times now she’d sent her thoughts into her imaginary library and selected the only book in the world that she knew she could recall without embellishing it...
A philosophical little bear named Winnie the Pooh was her salvation. her only defense against madness. Pooh and all the animals in Hundred Acre Wood.

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Merete could have used a Pooh and a balloon

Merete Lynggaard disappears in 2002. She is a well known political figure and because she is beautiful she is also photographed extensively by a roving band of paparazzi. They get paid more when it is chilly and her nipples are noticeable through her blouse. (This is a voyeuresque world.) Despite her very public professional life she keeps her private life...private. She doesn’t date even though there are legions of men that would love to spend time with her. She has more important duties such as getting home to her brother who is afflicted with brain damage suffered in a car accident that also took the lives of their parents. She has enemies as do all politicians, but would any of them try to hurt her?

The book flashes between 2002 and 2007.

In 2007 we meet Detective Carl Morck a grumpy, depressed, at time acerbic man who no one wants to work with. When the government insists the Copenhagen police department form a cold case department the Chief of Detectives jumps at the chance to assign Carl to that department which also happens to be in the basement...way...way...away from the rest of the detectives.

In Department Q

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Carl is the darkest, dankest corner of the basement of the police department.

Jussi Adler-Olsen explores the politics inherent in any organization as the Chief tries to keep as much of that government money allocated to Department Q in a slush fund and Carl Morck starts to understand that he has leverage to certainly obtain more than what they first gave him for his department. In one of his negotiations with the Chief he gets an assistant, a Syrian, with a dubious passport who is supposed to help clean Department Q, but once Carl discovers how resourceful Assad is he starts to use him to help track down clues and also obtain what he needs from other departments. Assad gets along with people much better than Carl.

Now Carl does have some legitimate issues that can account for some of his anti-social behavior. He has recently returned to work from being shot. He and two other detectives were investigating a murder. They did not clear the murder scene the way we are used to seeing it done on American TV. It turns out the killer is still there and in a blaze of gunfire all three detectives are shot. One dead, one paralyzed from the neck down, and Carl with a grazed head. Things happened so fast that Carl didn’t even have a chance to pull his weapon. When he replays what happened frame by frame in his head he realizes he did have time. He froze. He is cleared, but the guilt hangs like a shroud over everything he does.

Carl is lonely and when an attractive female walks across his vision he has to reel his tongue back in. He is especially attracted to married women. Adler-Olsen didn’t really explore that in depth, but it does make me wonder if part of their attraction for Carl is their unattainability or maybe he is attracted to older women more likely to be married. If you listen carefully you might actually hear the thump under Carl’s desk as the sexy psychiatrist Mona Ibsen walks into his office.

”Mona Ibsen sat down across from him. The light from outside on Otto Monsteds Gade shone on the back of her neck, creating a halo around her head. the soft light revealed delicate lines on her face; her lips were sensual and a deep red. Everything about her signaled high class. Carl locked eyes with her so as not to dwell on her voluptuous breasts. Nothing in the world could make him want to break out of the state he was in.”

I think that state is called lust Carl. I had to put my hands over my eyes during the rest of this scene. He mucks things up so badly you’d think he’d never talked to a woman before in his life.

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Jussi Adler-Olsen even looks like a guy who just wrote a really good book.

This book is a slow burn. If you have read Scandinavian books before you will expect this. I think it was around 130 pages that the book really hooked me. The book switches between Merete before 2007 and Carl investigating her cold case in 2007. As the plot picks up momentum and we learn more and more about what has happened to Merete you will find yourself on the edge of your seat. You will find yourself, despite his best efforts, to start to like Carl. You will wonder if some woman will take pity on Carl and haul his ashes. By the end you will already be looking for volume two in the Department Q series.