Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Absent One. New York: Dutton/Penguin Group, 2012.
My expectations were perhaps too high for this one after The Keeper of Lost Causes, leaving me with an uncomfortable, incomplete feeling. I like the premise where detective Carl Morck heads Department Q of the Danish police, and the odd assistants he works with, but their interactions just didn't ring true this time. Obstreperous new secretary Rose and his usual underling Assad don't seem to develop into fully identifiable characters. Morck himself is more abrupt than ever. Or did I just not notice before? In most ways, this does not detract from the originality of the story.
Morck finds a file mysteriously lying on his desk and when pointed clues also turn up, an old solved murder case quickly becomes a new and very current case. How will he ever prove who did it, with a gaggle of suspects in positions of power and influence? ... suspects who may be continuing with bizarre games. Addiction to hunting takes on literal meaning. The main witness is in hiding. Considerable time is given to her point of view, although as presented, it induces reader ambivalence — is she victim or criminal? There are occasional funny moments but also a few brutal beatings. A harrowing climax still left me with that feeling of not having a handle on the good guys.
The idle rich?
He was certain she was lying. Whisky or not, a person didn't just forget something like that. "Kimmie lived here for a while. You say it wasn't easy for you?"
She gazed at him in disbelief. "I hope you don't think I put up with that meat market for very long. No, during that time I preferred living on the coast."
"Costa del Sol, you know. Fuengirola. Lovely roof terrace right above the promenade. Delightful place. Do you know Fuengirola, Mr. Morck?"
He nodded. No doubt she went there on account of her arthritis, but otherwise it was where the maladjusted semi-wealthy with skeletons in their closet went. If she had said Marbella, he would have better understood. She must have been able to afford it. (182)
A marriage from hell:
He stood reconnoitering the area before climbing back in his car. The atmosphere in that vast mansion house had been oppressive, as, layer by layer, she had uncovered what a strong, sadistic man could do to a slender woman of twenty-two. How the honeymoon was quickly transformed into a daily nightmare. It started with mean words and threats, then things escalated. He was careful not to leave marks, because in the evening she had to be dressed to the nines, showing off her pedigree. That's why he had chosen her. (243)
One-liner: Maybe Carl needed to reconsider his prejudice about the ruling class's signature values. (242)
Craig Russell. Eternal. Toronto: McArthur & Company, 2008.
"A killer lives again," says the blurb. And it ensures a side trip into the fascinating realms of inherited memory and genetic transference. Russell showed his talent in two previous novels featuring Principal Chief Commissar Jan Fabel of the Murder Commission, Hamburg Police. The chronology in the first few chapters is a bit unsettling, but you are quickly caught up in unfolding events. Several threads in the story demonstrate the cleverness of this literate author. Russell seems better known in the UK and Europe where TV films are made from his novels; he also writes a separate series set in Glasgow.
"Truth is a debt that we owe to the dead" is a major theme and applies to more than the body count; a sub-theme of rebirth provides thought-provoking moments. Fabel finds himself meeting archaeologists, journalists, politicians, scientists, and psychologists to help fill the blanks in a series of grisly murders. Gore Alert: The murder scenes are not for the faint of heart. Prominent people are targets for no apparent motive — did they really reinvent themselves after their youthful days of student protests? Fabel himself gets terrorized by the predator, forcing examination of his ambivalence about being a cop, discouraged by the violence around him and the complicated psyches of the offenders he hunts. He will be back, though, several times after this. Note to self: Must find the Glasgow books!
A new word for me: Aphenphosmphobia. Fear of being touched.
Fabel ruminates on a trusted colleague:
If Maria was hiding something, then Fabel could not read it in her face. Fabel found himself, not for the first time, becoming deeply irritated by her closed-off countenance. After what they had been through together, he felt that he deserved her confidence. He felt the urge to confront her; to ask just what the hell her problem was. But, if there was anything Fabel knew about himself, it was that he was a typical male of his age and background: he habitually repressed spontaneous expression of his feelings. It meant that he approached things in a more measured way; it also meant that he often churned deep inside with the turmoil of his feelings. He dropped the subject. He did not mention that he was concerned about Maria's behaviour. He did not ask her if her life remained shredded by the horror of what had happened to her. (100)
In the midst of a discussion on theories and research:
"In males, the transgenerational response is sperm-mediated, in females it lies in foetal programming." ...
[males] "Basically the 'data,' for want of a better word, is stored in the sperm that is formed in puberty." ...[females] "What the expectant mother experiences during pregnancy or before is passed to the foetus which then stores the genetic memory in the forming ova."
"Amazing. And this is what Herr Dr. Griebel was researching?" asked Fabel.
"There are a great many researchers working in this field worldwide. Epigenetics has become a major and growing field of exploration. You probably remember the great hopes we all had for the Human Genome Project. It was believed we could track down the gene for every disease and condition, but we were disappointed. An unimaginable amount of money, resources and computer time has been devoted to mapping the human genome only to find that it was not, after all, that complicated. The complexity lies in all the combinations and permutations within the genome. Epigenetics may provide the key we are looking for. Herr Dr. Griebel was one of only a handful of scientists worldwide leading the way in understanding the mechanisms of genetic transference." (188-9)