The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Police Department in Denmark wants to ”get rid of” the annoying (and lazy) Carl Mörck, who recently experienced a trauma that made him even more annoying than usual. Leadership comes up with the brilliant idea to create a new department for old cold cases – Department Q. They succeed in getting a lot of extra funding from the government (which they secretly plan on using for other things) and they get rid of Carl Mörck by appointing him as the head of the department (and also the only employee) and placing the department in the basement.

However, things do not turn out the way they wanted. Mörck finds out how much money was allocated to the department and start making demands, e.g. that he wants his own assistant. Mörck gets his way when foreign-born Assad is assigned to the department. Mörck realizes later that it may not have been that smart to get an assistant, because then he actually has to work…

Department Q’s first cold case is about a woman who has been missing for several years.

Stand Out

I have heard both good and bad things about Adler-Olsen’s crime novels. Here at TheCrimeHouse they have been praised, but other blogs have called them “a dime a dozen” novels. I think that Adler-Olsen is one if the better authors in the traditional crime novel category. He succeeds in creating unique atmospheres, which makes his novels stand out, even though their structure may not be that original.


The characters are not Adler-Olsen’s strong suit. They are often exaggerated. Assad is almost a caricature of a polite/knowledgeable/passionate foreigner and Carl Mörck is the archetype of the lazy/headstrong investigator, who despite this is very good at his job (a combination I have never seen in real life). The characters also have a lot of baggage early on which makes it more difficult for me to embrace them.

Have It!

Despite the fact that I do not fully accept Adler-Olsen’s characters and that the structure is not the most original, I would still say that the novels belong to the top 10% of all crime fiction, because Adler-Olsen’s novels have it, that thing – IT – that you cannot put your finger on!


Original title in Danish: Kvinden i buret

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