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The Scarred Woman: A Department Q Novel


The Scarred Woman: A Department Q Novel

What a joy it is to have a new Department Q novel in hand. THE SCARRED WOMAN is the seventh in the series about this quirky four-member Cold Case squad with the Copenhagen Police Department. Q gets no respect at all from its peers and superiors, its continuing success notwithstanding. The prickly personality of Detective Carl Mørck --- diplomacy is not one of his strong suits --- does not help matters, nor do the respective personality traits of the enigmatic Assad, damaged Rose and understated Gordon, the other three members of the department.

However, the focus of THE SCARRED WOMAN --- a multifaceted title --- is on Rose, as Department Q takes on one of its most intriguing and challenging cases to date, a matter that can only be solved by the team investigating a very current case on the down low.

The novel runs along two different timelines: April and May 2016, and the closing weeks of 1995. The present is the primary focus, and is told from a number of different points of view as things jump back and forth in the month of May. Author Jussi Adler-Olsen never loses the reader, and it is a tribute to his talent as well as that of translator William Frost that things never get confusing or convoluted in this rather complex yet riveting plot.

"All of the Department Q books contain dark humor, high satire, social commentary --- not always politically correct --- and grand villains, with THE SCARRED WOMAN being no exception."

The current murder concerns that of an elderly woman whose body is found abandoned in a city park. A number of elements of the killing --- including the method --- bear a striking similarity to a murder that took place over a decade in the past. Q makes the connection, but Carl’s superiors stand in the way of the team, its past successes notwithstanding, taking on the responsibility of a current case. Worse, the team is once again threatened with being disbanded. Carl has other distractions as well, given that Rose, who is damaged on several levels, seems to be rapidly decompensating.

Meanwhile, a series of hit-and-run incidents involving young women as victims are plaguing the city. The reader is made privy to what is occurring, and why and how, from inception to execution (in every sense). What is truly fascinating is how Adler-Olsen takes this seemingly random and secondary storyline and brings it into Department Q’s investigation, even as it is Rose who winds up with a crucial clue that is the key to solving all of the mysteries, past and present. And solved they are, though at some cost.

All of the Department Q books contain dark humor, high satire, social commentary --- not always politically correct --- and grand villains, with THE SCARRED WOMAN being no exception. Adler-Olsen, in fact, somehow kicks it up a notch when such a task might seem impossible given the grand accomplishments of the previous volumes. If there is a downside, it is that I might have liked a bit more of Assad --- mysterious, all-knowing, malapropistic Assad --- in this current installment. Still, he is not absent by any means, and he has had his share of presence in more than one volume in the past.

As for Carl, the nominal head of Department Q, THE SCARRED WOMAN is noteworthy for its conclusion, in which it appears that he will get exactly what he wants. Or maybe something like it. Those who read it most assuredly will be waiting impatiently for the next book in the series to find out.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 21, 2017

The Scarred Woman: A Department Q Novel
by Jussi Adler-Olsen