The gang from Department Q is back in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s A Conspiracy of Faith (2013), which may be the most streamlined and entertaining of the bunch so far. The series follows the efforts of cantankerous Danish Detective Carl Mørck as he leads the Copenhagen police’s cold cases section in their pursuit of long-delayed justice. Or, perhaps I should say, he “leads” the Department: his trusty assistants, mysterious Syrian immigrant Assad and quirky secretary Rose Knudsen, do most of the heavy lifting, under Carl’s temperamental supervision. In A Conspiracy of Faith, their newest investigation kicks off with an unusual clue indeed: a literal message in a bottle, which seems have journeyed form the Danish fjords to the coast of Scotland, only to find its way to Department Q thirteen years after the fact. The message hints at a kidnapping-murder that was never solved, and as Carl, Assad, and Rose begin digging into clues, its perpetrator is hard at work on his latest in a series of crimes that target highly religious families — a reaction to his own traumatic upbringing.
The Department Q novels don’t tend to blow my doors off or anything, but I find them appealing, solid examples of Scandinavian procedural mystery. As a protagonist, Mørck is kind of a jerk, but written from a sly remove so that we can laugh at his cranky peculiarities, while rooting for his hard-working, quirky assistants Assad and Rose. It’s possible A Conspiracy of Faith has a somewhat smoother translation than usual, as I didn’t find myself tripping over its vagaries of style quite as often as in the previous novels, and it somewhat dials back the often-problematic squick factor, as well. Fans of international mystery will find plenty to enjoy here, and I suspect I’ll be back for further Department Q adventures.