Sunday, September 17, 2017

Desperate hope for some form of contact

It was deadly quiet in the S-train care because almost all the passengers were surfing on their smartphones and iPads. Some were enthusiastic and concentrated, while others were just scrolling their thumbs over the screen in the desperate hope for some form of contact.
Who can't relate to that image?

The Scarred Woman, by Jussi Adler-Olsen, was a fantastic page-turner of a book — just what I needed!

I'm familiar with the Danish Department Q series thanks to their dramatization (watch the first three movies on Netflix). Those films were such a satisfying, if dark, binge, that I couldn't refuse the offer of a review copy of a novel when it came my way. (Also, I was thrilled to learn there are books behind these films, of course there are.)

The titular scarred woman could refer to any of several women in the novel, all of them in their way both victim and perpetrator.

The women include some unfortunates who are receiving social assistance payments but also scamming the system; their case worker, recently diagnosed with breast cancer; and Rose, a police colleague who suffered a breakdown following the last Department Q case.

All this in a book that opens with a Nazi.

There's a good deal of coincidence going on in this novel. At any other time I might've rolled my eyes, but I think the book is saved by not taking itself too seriously. It's played matter-of-factly, even for laughs in some cases, that it's completely acceptable if not wholly believable.

I found it refreshing too that this novel isn't about Detective Carl Mørck; it focuses on the crimes at hand and the people involved in them.

I'm out of practice at reading crime novels, and I had some difficulty earlier this year in following the action of some (sci-fi) thrillers, so I hesitated to commit to reading this 480-page book, but it read like a breeze. Maybe more practiced readers might find it simplistic, but I found it clear without being overly obvious, well-paced without being weighed down by action, and having moral depth without getting lost in psychological detail.

I'm glad to have discovered this series and I definitely see myself turning to other Department Q novels in the cooling months ahead.


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