Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Marco Effect – A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Penguin Group - Dutton

I chose to read this book for a number of reasons.  First, it is set in Denmark and I thought that would make a change from the US, British, and French mysteries I have been reading.  Secondly, I have read good things about the Department Q series and I enjoy a crime series where you get to know the characters and watch them develop. Also, Adler-Olsen is a best-selling author who has won a number of crime-writing awards.  The summary of the book piqued my interest as well as the fact that the story is based, loosely, on real events.

Cover summary:
“All fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson wants is to become a Danish citizen and go to school like a normal teenager. But his uncle Zola rules his former gypsy clan with an iron fist. Revered as a god and feared as a devil, Zola forces the children of the clan to beg and steal for his personal gain. When Marco discovers a dead body—proving the true extent of Zola’s criminal activities—he goes on the run. But his family members aren’t the only ones who’ll go to any lengths to keep Marco silent . . . forever.”

Meanwhile, the last thing Detective Carl Mørck needs is for his assistants, Assad and Rose, to pick up a missing persons case on a whim: Carl’s nemesis is his new boss, and he’s saddled Department Q with an unwelcome addition. But when they learn that a mysterious teen named Marco may have as much insight into the case as he has fear of the police, Carl is determined to solve the mystery and save the boy. Carl’s actions propel the trio into a case that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups.”

Well, it seems I should have picked a different book as an introduction to the series. The story goes from Denmark to Africa and back.  This is a lot of area to cover and I found it resulted in too many characters and minor storylines that detracted from the main event.  Normally, the thought processes and rationalizations of the villain is a part of a story that I look forward to, but the sheer meanness that was Zola just didn't hold my interest.
The story stands alone and I had no trouble following the recurring characters in the series and understanding their relationships.  I looked forward to the pages that were about Marco, or Mørck and his assistants. The rapport between Mørck and his assistants was to my mind the best part of the book.  Their humor, understanding, and respect for each other, make for a pleasant and entertaining read.  There were, however, one too many camel analogies from Assad for my personal liking.
The core of the story that revolves around Marco is interesting, believable and well-developed and everything is neatly wrapped up at the end.  I just think that this is an instance where less would have been more but that won't deter me from reading another book in the series.
Article about the BBC documentary on gypsy child thieves
Interview with Jussi-Adler Olsen

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