Today, I am reviewing Jussi Adler-Olsen's novel The Absent One.
Let me begin by saying that this novel is part of a series (it's a "Department Q" novel), none of which I have read, and that this novel is a translation (Jussi is Danish).
This novel is a sensationalistic one. Drawing on themes of sado-masochism, abuse, and the privilege of the rich, it is difficult to read it and not feel like the author is trying to shock you. Having said that, there is enough suspense, and the plot is interesting enough to keep the reader wanting to know what happens next and keep turning pages.
The title seems to come from a character in the novel who is a mistress of disappearance - she's been living on the streets for years despite having come from a wealthy family, she changes her physical appearance frequently enough to be thoroughly camouflaged, and a few people want her dead - which is kind of fair, because there are quite a few people she wants to torment, herself.
This novel is not black and white - there are innocent victims, but they tend to be in the past. The police in this novel - the Department Q to which the series title refers - get entangled in the mess of abuse and crime while trying to solve a crime that is 20 years old. Yet the detective Carl Morck definitely has some issues, his jr. detective Assad seems to have something mysterious and probably illegal in his past, and even a few of the criminals in this novel seem to have a history that causes the reader to somewhat condone their behavior.
Occasionally, the translation didn't quite make sense to me - not on the individual sentence level, but rather, on the level of character. In particular, the secretary, Rose, whom Carl thinks is a giant, incompetent bitch, doesn't really seem that incompetent or bitchy to me while reading. Overall, however, the novel was a fairly interesting read, though, as I've stated before, seemed intentionally written for shock value.
This review is rather brief, because so much of the plot involves learning more about the characters and piecing together the plot, that I don't want to give too much away & make it not fun to read. However, if you have any thoughts on this novel, feel free to share them in the comments below.
*This novel was received as an ARC, and is slated to be published August 21, 2012.