on 21 July 2013
I had read the two previous books in this series, Which I enjoyed immensely, and would recommend. The wait for this book was worth it. I have enjoyed every page, the characters are funny, serious and so very human. The story is intriguing and flows from the finding of a bottle. I will say no more than this about the story, I recommend that you read it, it's a real page turner. I am definitely a fan of Jussi Adler-Olsen. I am going to read the first two books again, but REDEMPTION is a winner
When a bottle is washed up on a beach in Scotland, it is found to contain a message, mostly obliterated by time and damp, but with the Danish word for 'Help' still clearly showing at the top. This might have been dismissed as a joke except that the bottle also contains traces of blood. The age of the message marks this as a cold case, so it falls to the head of Copenhagen's Department Q, Carl Mørck, and his team to investigate. Enough of the message can be deciphered to suggest that it relates to a kidnapping, perhaps worse. But the case isn't as cold as Carl thinks, as the kidnapper is just about to repeat his crime...
This was my first introduction to Jussi Adler-Olsen and I was very impressed. The story is told in the third person from a variety of viewpoints, and in the past tense. (Hurrah! Am I the only person who's tired of every second book being in the present tense these days?) The author manages to create a good mix of humour mixed in with some really nail-biting suspense. There are some great action scenes, fast-paced and tense, together with some slower but no less interesting passages where Adler-Olsen lets the reader see inside the heads of the main players. His characterisation is very strong, both of villain and victims, and some of the scenes are quite harrowing, though he steers clear of being too graphic for the most part. Contrasted with this is the humour around the odd mix of people who make up Carl's team and family. It took me a while to get tuned in to these characters and some of them are undoubtedly a bit too eccentric to be quite realistic. However as I got to know them better, they grew on me - particularly Carl's main sidekick, his Syrian assistant Assad, who provides much of the book's humour. Carl himself is of course a bit of a maverick with lots of problems, but he stops well short of the stereotypical angst-ridden drunk, thankfully, and I found him a very likeable lead character.
The translator Martin Aitken has done an excellent job. The gradual deciphering of the message is key to the plot while a lot of the humour is based around Assad's misuse and misunderstanding of words, but Aitken manages to navigate these issues seamlessly and for once the humour travels very well. In fact, had I not known it was a translation, I'm not sure I would have guessed, which is about the highest praise I can give.
I could criticise some small weaknesses in the book - coincidence comes into play occasionally, some aspects stretch credulity a bit, the ending is perhaps a shade clichéd. But overall I found the book very well written and strongly plotted, and heartily recommend it as both an interesting and enjoyable read that held my attention throughout. Although it works well as a standalone, I felt I would have gained from knowing the recurring characters' back-stories, and will now be adding the earlier books to the TBR pile.
(This book has been published in the US under the title 'A Conspiracy of Faith', which I must say I think is a much better title for it than 'Redemption'. Confusingly, it is available under both titles in the UK.)
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.
on 30 November 2014
‘Mercy’ was a great read, I could hardly put it down and finished in record time for me! Perhaps there was a fault in the final overly neat denouement that one saw coming a mile off, but still very entertaining and our two leads (Carl and Merete) compelling with touches of honesty. ‘Disgrace’ was almost equally fast paced but let down by an exhaustive amount of 2-dimensional 'evil' characters. Now 'Redemption'...certainly the weakest so far.
The lead characters are refusing to develop emotionally in relationship to each other. Carl and Assad have been through horrific life changing events together in the previous books and yet the dull family secrets Assad keeps to himself can't be revealed, because they won't have an honest conversation? Don't believe it and it's less interesting.
For the majority of the investigation Carl doesn't feel particularly motivated and by the time he is makes repetitive (from previous books) inept decisions. For example, he rarely has his gun on him at crucial moments.
Finally we have the Rose & Yrsa debacle - hideous almost unforgivable choice. The reveal comes ages in and it’s painfully obvious - I kept hoping I was guessing incorrectly but alas no. Rose has always been a poorly written and frankly abused character. When she was introduced in 'Disgrace' it was of welcome interest to have a female perspective in that male dominated basement, but she's often humiliated by Carl and you sense the author (Adler-Olsen) has a lack of interest in her. Why have Rose around at all? Now this latest development is ridiculous and for the leads to not treat the condition with much serious concern is infuriating after you've endured many pages of the similar Yrsa caricature.
What I want from these novels is a sense of progression, the outside world affecting the inside of that frequently fascinating basement. Too often the author kills time with rather (by now) tired humour. I'd like to see Carl and Assad go out for a drink together after a hard day's work, something normal and yet revealing. Surely the reader should be rewarded with further development if you've continued on through the series?
Talking of progression, wouldn't it be nice not to have such a familiar climax? Why must every lead villain be terminated? How come little to no mention of previous cases arise? It would be great to see back Merete Lynggaard (the female lead from 'Mercy') - perhaps the most compelling female character from the whole series so far.
However, I still give this book 3 STARS and here's why... 'Redemption' on the whole still bares the mark of a page turner. I may have lost interest a few times but when the action and determination of characters is on I feel motivated to find out what happens next.
I also liked the way Adler-Olsen narrated chapters from our villain's childhood perspective followed sharply by a passage from his irredeemable adult self.
On reflection there are a couple of female characters that resonate; Isabelle's loneliness & yet fierce self-preservation and Rachel's quietly challenging perceptive suspicions were a welcome presence. Interesting to note that both these characters come in little contact with Carl.
I was disappointed not to have Hardy's journey move on more. The whole series is so out there logically you'd think perhaps the author would have allowed him to find some sanctuary whether it be physically or emotionally.
I'd like to have had more scenes with the new challenging Psychiatrist, although Carl's aggressive reaction to him felt like it betrayed his usual intelligence.
How about we move on a little in the fascinating original investigation - why was Carl spared in the shooting and not Anker or Hardy?
Must we always have a B investigation storyline? Who really cares about these arson attacks when we have two kidnapped children held up in a boathouse?
Finally, I don't understand Carl's slavery to his ex-wife? Yes he at last let rip in an outburst of anger but why would he agree to visit his ex Mother-in-law? Vigga is yet another painfully two dimensional female character that discredits our lead, how was he ever married to her? Adler-Olsen neglects to realise if you create paper thin female characters that are supposed to interact with our lead it let's down everything.
So, very much a mixed bag. Still a great series premise and an investigation you're fully behind resolving well. I'd recommend this book only for followers of the series. I'm going to take a break from it and if I return to Department Q I'll be hoping for a return to Mercy's standards
This is the third in the Danish crime fiction series built mainly upon the characters of Detective Inspector Carl Mørck and his Syrian assistant Assad, who work cold/unsolved cases. I read the first one (Mercy) which I thought was very good, somehow missed the second one (Disgrace) but snapped this one up when I was looking for something decent to read. It did not disappoint, even if it was a bit long at over 600 pages.
The translator has been changed, I notice, from Tiina Nunnally - who is American and female - to Martin Aitken, who is Danish and male. It's three years since I read Mercy but I think the translation plays a strong part in Redemption's appeal, because much of the humour and language is distinctly British in style and effect. The same attempt has been made by translators of Jo Nesbo's novels (mainly Don Bartlett I believe) and with less success. I think this is because Nesbo's front-man Harry Hole doesn't really suit this kind of humour whereas Carl Mørck does. Anyway hats off to Martin Aitken for doing a convincing job at entertaining a British reading audience.
If there's a flaw in Redemption, it's the contrasting styles of writing when the narrative switches from Carl Mørck to the un-named (or multi-named) bad guy. It almost feels as if there are two authors. When Carl Mørck is on the page, the writing is generally light in nature and, with able support from Assad, Yrsa and Rose, you're waiting for the next moment of humour, of which there is an abundance. Then the next chapter might switch to the killer/kidnapper, and it's a very different atmosphere indeed. I think this matters because the killer is highly organised, plans for every possible setback and plans everything in meticulous detail; this means that his nemesis - Carl Mørck - will need to be equally intelligent if not more so in order to catch him. The flaw, therefore, is that Carl Mørck comes over as being a bit grumpy, not a world away from being burned out and rarely if ever displaying any moments of investigative genius. In fact, many of the key breakthroughs in the investigation are made by his somewhat eccentric sidekick Assad and one or other of Yrsa or Rose (who are sisters). When I think of some of the leading law-enforcement characters in literary or TV crime fiction - such as the aforementioned Harry Hole, or Harry Bosch, or maybe those of years past such as Colombo or Poirot, it's not hard to see how they solve cases as they have that indefinable X-factor that gives you belief in them. Carl Mørck doesn't have that, and it's becoming clear that in many ways he depends on his motley crew of a back-up team who collectively come across as funny rather than ruthless cops. Still, it makes for good reading.
The character of the killer is well-drawn and most readers will have no difficulty in disliking him intensely - which matters, of course. The story is a little far-fetched though, not least the fact that Carl Mørck managed to track the killer down in the first place (depending heavily on the finding of a bottle in fishermen's nets off Scotland some years earlier) but it's best not to labour on those improbabilities and just enjoy the writing, which is easy on the eye and often answers any questions you might have yourself, or reminds you of details you had forgotten from hundreds of pages earlier.
You don't need to read the two previous novels in the series, although I do recommend Mercy. I liked Redemption, it won't win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction but it's a good read and well worth your time if crime fiction is your thing.
on 22 February 2016
Another great read in the Department Q series. I've loved every minute of reading these books, The characters are great and the story lines are gripping, book one is still my favorite but i have enjoyed reading all of them. I like that we are starting to find out more about the characters background and personal lives as we are invested in them. This book was extremely gripping and had me hooked.
A message in a bottle from a kidnap victim turns up on Carl Morck's desk many years after the event but the team find it hard not only to decipher the message but identify a victim. In the meantime the kidnapper is still at work. I found Redemption to be a clever, interesting read as it seems like two different stories. On the one hand you have Department Q trying to solve a historical case with very limited facts and on the other you have the kidnapper effecting his latest coup with neither being aware of the other's actions until close to the end. There is also a subplot about arson which seems to be fairly superfluous, except to point out Assad's powers of observation.
If you are looking for realism in your reading then Redemption is probably not the novel for you. It is a plot driven novel which I found compulsive and absorbing but the bad guy has so many identities, bolt holes and escape plans it defies belief. I don't think characterisation is Mr Adler-Olsen's strongpoint as the characters don't seem to move on as the series progresses and the quirks which were initially interesting now seem tedious and repetitive. There are hints of future revelations about the shooting that Morck survived and Assad's past so maybe something will happen in the next book.
Despite my criticism I enjoyed Redemption and think it is a great way to pass a few hours.
on 31 August 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed this Danish crime novel. I like the technique of disclosing a small part of each thread of this multi-layered story and moving on. It kept the suspense going to the end of the book. It pulls no punches in the description of events. Well worth buying.
on 5 August 2013
I loved Olsens first creepy Mercy but was less impressed by the difficult second novel . Loved redemption , it has the right balance between edge of seat crime horror and scandi detective quirk . Yes Carl Morck , Assad and Rose are rather bizarre crime solving trio , but if you let some of the rather less amusing comic lines [ poor translation ? ] wash over you , it does become a really good summer thriller to hook you in.
on 26 July 2013
Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen is the 3rd book in the Department Q series featuring the ever cynical, Detective Inspector Carl Mørck of the Copenhagen police of the Cold Cases division.
I love this character! He's served over 20 years in the police force and was an outstanding and dedicated homicide cop until a devastating shooting saw him lose one of his colleagues, injure himself and leave another paralysed. And now Carl Mørck is lacking all motivation and commitment and he's just hanging in there for retirement, which is still another 20 years away. So he's been sideways promoted to running a new department dealing with cold cases: Department Q. Except he's not really running it because he's actually the only detective in the team. The other 2 people assigned to him are the mysterious Arab, Hafez el-Assad, who started out as a cleaner in Book 1 (Mercy) but has now become Carl's invaluable right-hand man (although Carl would probably be the last person to admit that), and Rose Knudsen, the very oddly behaved general assistant given to him in Book 2 (Disgrace). Between them they manage to drive Carl nuts, and yet without them he would never have been able to solve any of cases he's been given, piled up in folders on his desk in the windowless office of the basement in police headquarters.
From the book description: "Two boys, brothers, wake tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. Their kidnapper has gone, but soon he will return. Their bonds are inescapable. But there is a bottle and tar to seal it. Paper and a splinter for writing; blood for ink. A message begging for help . . . Her husband will not tell the truth: where he goes, what he does, how long he will be away. For days on end she waits and when he returns she must endure his wants, his moods, his threats. But enough is enough. She will find out the truth, no matter the cost to him - or to herself. In Copenhagen's cold cases division Carl Mørck has received a bottle. It holds an old and decayed message, written in blood. It is a cry for help from two boys. Is it real? Who are they and why weren't they reported missing? Can they possibly still be alive?"
Originally written in Danish, this version was superbly translated by Martin Aitken, who has made an excellent job of carrying across Carl's cynical attitude and dry sense of humour - which I feel puts this detective on a pedestal above most others in today's crime detective arena. The fact that Mørck seems to be surrounded by an unusual amount of oddball characters seems to be mostly down to his own dented outlook on life. Or else he's just prematurely becoming a victim of grumpy-old-man syndrome where he's the only sane and correct person in the world.
Redemption is very well plotted and delivered by an extremely gifted storyteller. All the main characters are fully developed, multidimential people (Adler-Olsen doesn't do cardboard cutouts). You're taken right into the head of Carl Mørck so you can feel his frustrations with everything he has to put up with, as well as into the depths of the complex mind of the kidnapper and those around him.
Redemption can be read as a standalone but to fully appreciate the development of the characters, I recommend reading Mercy first, followed by Disgrace.
For me, it's a close call between Mercy and Redemption as to which one I enjoyed reading the best. I think Redemption might just tip the scales. But one thing is for sure, Jussi Adler-Olsen just gets better and better and it's going to be a long year waiting for the next book in the series.
This is one of the few books I've read where I was sorry to reach the end. But only because it meant parting with Carl and his sidekick, Assad, who I really enjoyed being with for a while… In the meantime I can look forward with anticipation to the screen adaptations of all 3 books, due out sometime in 2013, and see how the characters transform to the big screen. I can't wait!
on 7 August 2013
Can you think of anything more romantically mysterious than finding a message in a bottle? That's how Redemption starts - when an unusual bottle is washed up on the bleak North Scottish coastline. It sits on a shelf gathering dust for years until someone realises that it contains a desperate plea for help. And it's written in Danish, so it ends up on the desk of Carl Morck for Department Q to look into. He ends up on the trail of a cold-hearted serial killer and master of disguise who has managed to infiltrate some of the country's most insular and reclusive religious sects. The criminal is still at large and, to make matters worse, is targeting children.
Meanwhile, Assad can't help sticking his oar in with one of the cases that is troubling the regular police force upstairs. A spate of arson attacks has plagued the city and the only clue to a possible solution is the bizarre finding of several charred skeletons with severed fifth fingers.
I'm delighted to report that Jussi Adler Olsen is back on top form in this most recent instalment in the series! It's a really satisfying crime novel, a perfect mix between past and present narratives, action scenes and introspection, a nice sprinkling of humour, boom! I felt like it was very well-researched when it came to the details about the various religious organisations, too.
The best thing about these books is that aside from all the suspense and action you can enjoy some great character development. Rose is gone but not forgotten as her equally odd sister Yrsa stands in to cover her workload. I love the relationship between Carl and Assad and am particularly fond of the teasing hints that are being dropped about secrets in Assad's past as we progress through the series. It's a credit to the translator that his language barrier is conveyed in convincing broken English from the original Danish. If I didn't know better I'd be convinced that this novel had originally been written in English.
After Disgrace left me feeling underwhelmed, I was pleased to read such a solid follow-up. Redemption has reignited my interest in this series and I will certainly be picking up any further installments. This book would work very nicely as a standalone crime thriller, however, I think for full appreciation the books should be read in order.