Review: REDEMPTION by Jussi Adler-Olsen

20130829-073010.jpgI occasionally wonder if I’ve simply read too much crime fiction.

REDEMPTION (published as A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH in the US) is Jussi Adler-Olsen’s third novel to feature Carl Mørck and his team of well meaning misfits in Department Q: Copenhagen Police’s cold case unit. As this outing opens Carl is returning to work from leave he took to settle his old colleague, now a quadriplegic after being shot on duty, into his home. There’s a lot going on at the station but Carl’s attention is drawn to a message in a bottle. The bottle had washed up on Scottish shores but once the language of the message was recongised as Danish it was sent through to Copenhagen police. Carl’s assistants, particularly Assad, are soon intently trying to interpret the note, some words of which have been washed away, and their efforts soon lead them to the trail of a particularly nasty killer (not, of course, that there really is any such thing as a nice killer).

I mostly enjoy the element of the book dealing with the personal lives and character development of Carl and his team. The picture of them all is becoming deeper with each novel and they feel like more well rounded characters now: full of contradictions like most real people. I have to say though I found the thread dealing with Rose and her sister both completely predictable (I think I said out loud the oh come on I was thinking which was problematic as I happened to be on the bus at the time) and entirely unbelievable. And looking back I think this is where my disengagement with the book probably began: I started to get the impression the author was…having a lend…seeing how obvious or ridiculous he could be and still get people to hand over cash for his writing.

This feeling only grew as the main plot unfolded. After the third or fourth impossible coincidence (not too far into the story) I pretty much stopped connecting to it on anything but a superficial level. There’s a Hollywood blockbuster sensibility to the amount of action and violence that takes place and this kind of storyline just doesn’t interest me that much. The motivation provided for the killer was another thing that didn’t really ring true. Not that I don’t believe someone brought up in a hideously strict religious environment might end up psychologically so damaged he would become a killer, but I never believed in this character’s damaged psyche. It felt like a checklist of character traits had been neatly ticked off rather than being inside the head of someone truly affected by a horrid childhood.

My lessening interest as REDEMPTION progressed wasn’t helped by its length. Coming at over 18 hours as an audio book I imagine its print version could act as a sturdy doorstop and it just wasn’t necessary (much as I enjoy Stephen Pacey’s lovely voice in my head). This is the third of Adler-Olsen’s novels that I’ve read and it was better than the second instalment but neither holds a candle to the first book in the series for me.So, aside from being mildly curious about where Adler-Olsen will take his continuing characters next, I think I might be done here.

I hope I’ve just read too many barking mad serial killer books rather than too much crime fiction all together.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Steven Pacey
Translator Martin Aitken
Publisher Penguin Audiobooks
Length 17 hours 18 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #3 in the Department Q series

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15 Responses to Review: REDEMPTION by Jussi Adler-Olsen

  1. greenspace01 says:

    It’s probably not that you’ve read too much crime fic – I can quite understand your being put off a book, and maybe a series, by OTT violence, excessive use of coincidence and an unconvincing “crazy” killer.
    Kate Atkinson uses coincidence and overlapping storylines really well, but not everyone can do that, and some authors don’t bother – they just bung them in.
    Jean Bedford’s Now You See Me is a terrific (and distressing) example of a killer motivated by a horrible childhood – and is just about an example of a “nice” killer, too.
    maybe Adler-Olson is having a lend of his readers, maybe he was bored and started to play with the story and got carried away, maybe he’s trying to catch the eye of a Hollywood producer…


    • That’s an interesting recommendation there thanks…Bedford is on my ‘must try’ list of authors as she’s Australian and I don’t think I’ve ever read any of hers…will have to try and track it down.

      I do agree that Kate Atkinson manages to get away with a high coincidence ratio


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – I know just what you mean. It’s gotten to the point where I have to be convinced – and I mean convinced to read a serial killer novel. There are just too many of them and very few of them have really engaging plots and a lot of them have too much predictability. I like your use of the term Hollywood Blockbuster too. That about says it all…


  3. Kathy D. says:

    I enjoyed this book, but the parts I liked were about Merck’s Department Q and its zany characters. Yes, the part about Rose and her sister were overdone but humorous to me.
    There were too many coincidences, which also annoyed me. There was an over-the-top car chase which was a bit too much and a few other scenes where I rolled my eyes and said, “Oh, brother.” And the killer’s violent scenes were overdone. I ended up skipping some of this as there’s just so much sadism and violence I can tolerate. I think an upbringing like the killer’s, not only the religion, but the horrific abuse in the name of religion under a wrathful god and father, could push someone over the edge.
    But I liked Merck, his home life and work life and colleagues. I laughed several times.


    • There are definitely some funny moments Kathy. One of the problems with audio books is the lack of skipping capacity…you have to ‘read’ every word, like it or not


  4. Kathy D. says:

    What you’re saying contributes more to my decision not to listen to audio books. Then again I’m not often traveling as you are — and as far as listening while doing housework, rarely do I succumb to those tasks. I often skip the worst violence or killer’s thoughts when I’m reading or else skim.
    There is so much going on in Merck’s mind that is witty and I don’t know if that comes across on tape.


  5. Jose Ignacio says:

    An excellent review Bernadette, though I’m rather incline to skip this book for the moment.


  6. This is interesting, I had a similar feeling recently, that I had read too much translated crime fiction – I read Summer of Lost Toys by Antonio Hill and despite the rave reviews I did not personally rate it, perhaps we have become jaded and need to refresh our palate? A touch of Jane Austen maybe??


  7. Rebecca says:

    I really liked the first book in the series as I was reading it, but I’m bothered by it more the longer it’s been since I read it because of the woman being tortured and tortured and tortured some more. I think I’ll eventually try book 2, but I’m not in any rush to do so.

    And I’m in the no-more-serial-killers club.


  8. Kathy D. says:

    Amen! No more serial killers for me either. I want the killer to be a family members, friend, co-worker, neighbor, who murders for a reason — and a few people, not the psychopathic serial killer mentality. And, personally, I can live without reading the chapters or sections — often in italics — that portray the killer’s point of view. Do I want to see this? No.


  9. Sarah says:

    Interesting, Bernadette. I liked this book, but I too feel that a lot I’m reading at the moment is very similar. I’m trying something different at the moment to try and break out of my comfort zone.


  10. Belle Wong says:

    I really enjoyed the first book in the series, but overall it was because of Department Q itself and Assad in particular. I haven’t read the second book yet. It’s too bad the third book reads more like Hollywood action thriller with impossible plot points and over the top violence.

    I have to be very selective in audio because of the lack of skimming ability!


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  12. William says:

    I loved the first book also, but couldn’t finish the second. I tried the third and also quit. It just seems so repeditive to me and the banter between the three characters seems so fake and unreal and that theya re now experts in solving crimes. I will not be reading anymore of this series.


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