Redemption (Department Q 3) by Jussi Adler-Olsen transl. Martin Aitken

SOS to the world…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

redemptionWhen 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 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.

(photo: wikipedia)
(photo: wikipedia)

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 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 ever-growing 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.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

34 thoughts on “Redemption (Department Q 3) by Jussi Adler-Olsen transl. Martin Aitken

  1. Love this review. You made the professor want to read this book!

    And, no, I’m sick of present tense too! Yucketh! (I do hope that Tuppence didn’t have to go through that nail-biting suspense! ;))


  2. I am very glad that you enjoyed your first visit to ‘Department Q.’ I recommend the first book in the series (Mercy) very highly. Not only does it give the story of how the department and its characters got started, but also, it’s a good mystery. In my opinion, the second one (Disgrace) is less well-done, and some people have even really disliked it. But it’s still heaps better than some of what’s out there. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the series.


    • Yes, I’d seen some mixed reviews, probably of the second one, and wasn’t at all sure whether I’d enjoy this, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find it as good as I did. No.1 has duly been added to the wobbling pile – thanks for the recommendation!


  3. I haven’t read any of these, but I am currently reading what might almost be described as a “Nordic Cosy” “Frozen Out” by Quentin Bates. it has a drowned corpse (not a spoiler, we get to see the murder ,tho’ not the murderer, in the prologue), a mid-thirties policewoman with a perfectly normal life, two normal children and no apparent existential angst – and you know what -I’m loving it!


      • No, that was Peter Hoeg’s “Miss Smilla’s feeling for snow” – a great book, but not exactly a cosy.


        • Ah yes – that rings a bell now. Though I’ve given up hope of getting Greenland to visit. Not to mention China – massive tome on Chinese intellectuals, tags of leading dissidents all over the place…and not a single Chinese visitor! Huh!


          • Maybe you should have written it in Chinese? More seriously, internet access is quite restricted in China, so maybe no-one can read the book or access your blog. Don’t know why no-one is visiting from Greenland though……..


            • Well, I did tag the review with the Chinese characters for Liu Xiaobo – fat lot of good that did me! Of course, for all I know the characters might just as easily have meant something incredibly rude…

              I was hoping Americans based in China might have access, but if they do maybe it shows up on the map as US. Who knows? I give up though – and at least I know considerably more about China than I did!


            • No, no… I meant maybe they have to route through Us servers if they want to access non-Chinese sites. I admit I can’t tell one Balkan state from another, but even I have a reasonable idea of the differences between America and China. For one thing, the Chinese don’t eat popsicles…


  4. I don’t have any Danish writers on my wish list and so I might look out for this. And can I second the Quentin Bates recommendation. I’ve read both the previous books and have just bought the third. He is very good at exploring the effects that the financial crash have had on the crime rates in Iceland.


    • If you do, I think you’d be better to read them in order. I always jump in the middle, and then regret it. The penalty of freebies, I suppose.

      I’ve added Quentin Bates to the list, but it’s getting so out of control now, he’ll probably have written another two before I get to him! 😉


    • Nope, same translators! Different publishers I think though they’re all so interconnected now, I can never tell if it’s two parts of the same group. It makes it really confusing to follow a series though…


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