Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Published 2008 in Denmark – this translation by Lisa Hartford published 2011

‘Hello,’ greeted Assad as he stood leaning against the driver’s door. On his head he wore a camel-hair cap of unknown origin. He looked like anything but a private chauffeur assigned to the criminal police department, if such a title even existed. Carl glanced up at the sky. It was pale blue and clear, the temperature was tolerable. ‘I know just exactly the location of Egely,’ said Assad, pointing at the GPS as Carl got into the passenger seat. Carl cast a weary glance at the image on the screen. He saw an X on a road that was a comfortable distance from the waters of Roskilde Fjord, so that the residents of the nursing home wouldn’t be likely to fall in...  

Assad started the engine, put the car in reverse, and sped backwards along Magnolievangen, stopping only when the rear of the vehicle was halfway up on the grass embankment on the other side of Rønneholt Parkvei. Before Carl’s body could even react, Assad had slammed through the gears and was now cruising along at ninety kilometres an hour, where the speed limit was only fifty. ‘Stop, damn it!’ yelled Carl…

observations: My friends at a Crime and Mystery discussion board had some very good advice for a recent trip to Copenhagen: a list of books by Danish authors to read before during and after the trip. This one came highly recommended, and very much lived up to its rep. It’s not perfect, but it was a great book to read on a long train journey: expansive, but with a strong drive and some tension. The plot is pretty gruesome (and a bit unlikely, though that doesn’t matter) and guessable part of the way through. A woman politician has been abducted five years ago, and we, the readers, know that she is being kept imprisoned. A troublesome policeman has been given this cold case to follow up, to get him out of the way, and we follow his investigation. He is the usual grumpy figure with the difficult personal life, but he was a lot more fun than this stereotype suggests – in fact he had echoes of my favourite fictional policeman, Harry Nelson from Elly Griffiths’ books (on the blog here).

Carl is bad-tempered, unpopular, and deeply, deeply un-politically correct. But he is funny, and the real jewel at the centre of the book is his relationship with Assad, the driver above. The Danish police force apparently employs assistants whose jobs include cleaning the floor, making the coffee, and sorting out files – a little hard to imagine – but Assad also turns out to be an ace if unpredictable investigator. So they make a formidable team.

The translation is odd at times, and the description of a warehouse-sized room at the end seemed to have got its feet/yards messed up, but that’s nit-picking.

Links on the blog: Another great abduction thriller here. Hats all over - click on the label below.

It’s never specified what the hat is like. Assad’s background is somewhat mysterious, and although it is certainly Middle Eastern rather than Central Asian, couldn't miss the chance to use this splendid picture by Kerri-Jo Stewart of a hat stall at the famous Tolkuchka bazaar in Turkmenistan.


  1. Love the photo. Old new meeting.
    Have you featured Raymond Chandler on your blog?

  2. Moira - I'm so glad you liked this one! I agree with you that the relationship between Mørck and Assad is one of the best things about this novel. I like the police politics too, and as you say, there are moments of real tension and suspense in the novel.

  3. Thanks both!
    Yes Dee - Chandler here and I have another one that I'm intending to do soon....

  4. Glad you liked it Moira. I have 'Redemption' on my shelf to read.

  5. Very nice overview. I have this book, just purchased it recently, and hope to read more international fiction before the end of this year. Based on your review, I am sure I will enjoy it.

  6. I was glad I read it, and very grateful for the recommendation!


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