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THE HANGING GIRL by Jussi Adler-Olsen: Book Review

Department Q has another cold case.  That’s unfortunate from Detective Carl Mørck’s point of view; he’d much rather sit at his desk with his feet up, letting other sections of the Copenhagen police force deal with any problems that occur.  So when Carl gets a phone call from a colleague in Bornholm, Christian Habersaat, he tells Habersaat that the case the latter wants to refer isn’t appropriate for Department Q and hangs up.

But that’s not the end of the story.  A few minutes later Carl’s assistant Rose comes into his office with an e-mail message from the Bornholm officer:  Department Q was my final hope.  I can’t take any more.  C. Habersaat.  And Rose’s five attempts to reach Christian end in failure.

The following morning Rose greets Carl with the news that Christian Habersaat had committed suicide at his retirement party the previous night.  When Carl, Rose, and the third member of their team, Assad, arrive at the remote Danish island of Bornholm that afternoon, the situation is explained.  Habersaat was a regular police officer, not a detective, but he became so obsessed with a hit-and-run case almost twenty years earlier that it cost him his marriage, his son, and the respect of his fellow officers.

Nearly two decades ago, the body of a teenage girl, Alberte Goldschmid, was found early one morning.  Forensics showed that she had been hit by a car with such force that she was thrown onto a tree limb and bled to death over a period of hours.  A horrible death, to be sure, but the investigation concluded that there was no reason to suspect foul play, that it was simply a driver who panicked and fled the scene, not even bothering to call for medical help.  All the usual steps were taken to find the car but to no avail, and eventually the case was closed.

Except, that is, by Habersaat, who was convinced that it was murder, not a hit-and-run.  He began a long and ultimately fruitless search for the driver of the car, and when he finally concluded that he would never find him he tried without success to interest the Copenhagen cold cases office.  When that failed, he killed himself.

Carl Mørck may not be an especially admirable person, but he’s definitely a good detective.  Even on this case, which he took against his will and which he can’t wait to be rid of, he keeps investigating, digging further and further into the hundred of files that Habersaat left behind and discovering things that the small town policeman had been unable to find.  Rose and Assad are terrific characters, with their own foibles, and they are even more determined than Carl to find out the truth about Alberte Goldschmid’s death.

You can read more about Jussi Adler-Olsen at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site http://www.marilynsmysteryreads.com

 

 

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