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Must-read: The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

In Jussi Adler-Olsen’s second cold case crime novel, Detective Superintendent Mørck sets out to solve the 20-year-old murder of two siblings who may have gotten on the wrong side of a gang of rich boarding school students.

The Absent One

Detective Superintendent Carl Mørck is head of Copenhagen’s Department Q, which investigates the city’s cold cases. Although a man is in jail for the 1987 murder of Lisbet and Søren Jørgensen, a citizen’s complaint has reopened the case.

The more Mørck and his assistant, Hafez el-Assad, look into the brutal murder of the teens, the more they are convinced that something was seriously wrong with the initial investigation and that it’s likely the killers are still free.

At the core of murder in The Absent One is a gang of six upper-class boarding school students. Now, 20 years later, three are millionaires and prominent in their fields, and one has confessed to the Jørgensens’ murder and is serving a prison sentence. Of the two girls involved, one died in an accident, and one is living off the grid. It is the latter, Kimmie, who seems to hold the key to the case.

Although she grew up pampered and wealthy, Kimmie has become adept at living on the streets, changing her identity and looks, and hiding from her former classmates and the police. She is not above violence herself, and despite fearing for her life, she knows she has the power to destroy the other gang members. It is to her that Mørck turns his attention.

The Absent One is a fast-paced, sometimes violent crime thriller that takes readers onto the streets of Copenhagen and into the lives of the rich and powerful. The old friends count on their money and loyalty for protection, but as long as Kimmie is alive and Department Q has reopened the files, they cannot rest easy.

Mørck is determined to solve the case, and even when his digging gets him in trouble with his superiors, he doesn’t stop seeking justice for the Jørgensen siblings. To balance the stubborn focus of the detective, Adler-Olsen gives us insight into Mørck’s personal life and his relationship with Assad and secretary Rose Knudsen. These breaks from the action help us relate to the characters as individuals, keeping us fully invested in the story.

Although The Absent One is the second in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone. The heart-pumping action and unforeseen twists makes this Danish thriller an August must-read novel.

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