Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I'm probably one of the last people to climb aboard the Scandinavian mystery/thriller train, but I've finally taken my seat, and I'm happy to say I get all the excitement.  

The Scarred Woman is the 7th novel in the Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  I usually don't like to start a series with the latest book, but I thought I'd give it a shot.  For the most part, it worked for me.  But, one of the major parts of the novel has a backstory that I wish I was more familiar with before jumping into this novel.  Adler-Olsen makes up for that by digging into the story of Rose, one of the investigators for Department Q and not only familiarizing the reader with her sad, troubled past, but actually solving a big puzzle that will help her heal and move forward.  Rose is an unforgettable character, and her mental scars from emotional and verbal abuse are so vivid that it's painful to read about her experiences.  

So.  The Scarred Woman is really good!  It is dark, for sure, but refreshingly so. Like a blast of cold air that wakes you up.  In this novel, there is the recent unsolved murder of Rigmor Zimmerman, an elderly woman found dead in a park with head trauma and a substantial amount of money on her person.  It resembles a old cold case involving a beautiful young teacher who was also found dead with head trauma over ten years before.  While it feels like there should be a connection, I kept thinking it was a far stretch and no way could they be connected.  I was wrong.  

Besides Roses' story, which is painful to read, there is the story of Anne-Line, a social worker who is fed up with her job, the unending revolving door of young capable women who live off of the government, and upset about a recent medical diagnosis.  Anne-Line is one of those folks who work the same job for years, live quietly alone, and one day wake up to realize they are fed up with the unfairness of life, and decide to do something about it.  Anne-Line decides these girls- these lazy, selfish, dregs on society, must die.  Her reasoning, her decision making, and her planning are unsettling.  So this is how people become unhinged, I thought.  How people who can be described as "quiet, hardworking, nice" become killers.  Her transformation was chilling. I have to say she was my favorite character in the novel.  

So it seems that Carl and Assad, two investigators in Department Q, have a lot of seemingly random cases to solve.  Jussi Adler-Olsen skillfully weaves them all together, and the end is quite good.  Wow.  So impressed!  I did feel a bit lost a few times, because there is an established history between Carl and Assad, and Rose.  I felt I walked in mid-conversation, but it wasn't enough to keep me from getting into this novel and watching it all unfold.  I may go back and read the first Department Q novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes.  I usually don't read a lot of gritty contemporary mysteries, but this has turned me onto them, and I will certainly read more-especially by Scandinavian authors.  There was something very appealing about a mystery set in Copenhagen.  

A huge thank you to Dutton/Penguin for a review copy of The Scarred Woman. Yet again another genre I probably would have never read, but for this review opportunity.  Now I've got another whole world of Scandinavian thrillers to explore.  

Rating:  5/6 for a very clever mystery set in modern Copenhagen.  Each plot point in itself is solid and interesting, but the path to solving each mystery and the final solution are fascinating and make for one excellent read.  If you're interested in the Department Q novels, I'd start with the first one and work your way up to The Scarred Woman.  Or, you can be like me and jump in--either way will work!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.  

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