The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen

Penguin Group
Hardcover/400 pages
ISBN: 978-0525952480
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". . . uneven and long-winded at times, but on target when . . focused on the case and Merete’s situation."

Uneven, at times taut and engrossing thriller, which needs a firm editor’s hand.

Merete Lynggaard has a quiet life. She gets rid of anyone and anything that does not help her keep her private life private: secretaries, men, outsiders. She is also on the rise in her political party and may someday be Prime Minister—until she goes missing and is presumed suicide.

Carl Morck has his own demons to battle since he and his partners were injured or killed during a homicide investigation. Carl is not easy to work with and he has a tendency to get off task when his libido is on the rise, so his section chief decides to promote him to the basement. Eight million dollars for the department and getting Carl off everyone’s hit list are the chief’s main reasons, but he does not expect Carl to do more than mark time. Carl has other ideas.

Carl has a large stack of files on his desk and a new assistant, an Arab, who seems to be more astute than a janitor. Choosing Merete’s five-year-old suicide, Carl decides she will be his first case and he goes about his investigation in a lackadaisical manner. Several points do not make sense and Carl slowly gets involved in Merete’s last days while she is slowly counting down her final weeks as a captive in a pressure chamber.

The Keeper of Lost Causes has moments that are as taut as piano string, especially when Merete’s story is in the forefront. Carl, on the other hand, is unlikeable, inappropriately lecherous, and often irritating. Jussi Adler-Olsen gives Carl Morck a fascinating character and Merete’s part of the concurrent stories is engrossing and frightening. The background characters are cardboard cutouts.

Carl’s nearest and dearest get a lot of space for a thriller and they do nothing to advance the story or provide any real insight into Carl’s life away from the office, except for Hardy, his former partner, paralyzed in the spine center who wants to die, and the janitor, who obviously has more secrets and talents than is at first surmised. It looks as though Carl is the focus in a series of thrillers and Adler-Olsen is laying the groundwork. Most of the details are extraneous and add nothing to the story or to Carl’s character.

I found Keeper of Lost Causes uneven and long-winded at times, but on target when Adler-Olsen was focused on the case and Merete’s situation. I could have skimmed most of Carl’s story and still got as much out of the book’s four hundred pages. Jussi Adler-Olsen has style and a good sense of timing—most of the time—and he keeps burying the lead. Interesting reading that needed a good editor to help tighten up the book.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell