Book Review: The Hanging Girl

This is the sixth book in the Department Q series by Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. The series is set in Copenhagen and Department Q is essentially a Cold Case Unit.

This is a terrific series. However, this is also the second book in a row in this series that was a disappointment. THE MARCO EFFECT was abysmal and nearly unreadable. THE HANGING GIRL was moderately better.

The plot is centered on a hit-and-run that left a teenage girl hanging upside down in a tree. Her case has been unsolved for nearly two decades even as it has ruined the personal and professional life of the police officer that discovered the grisly scene. This beat cop made it his life work to solve the case, but his investigation became an obsession and the only thing he accomplished was to alienate his family and colleagues. As a last ditch effort, the cop calls Department Q.

As usual, Rose is determined to take the case, Carl is reluctant to get involved for fear it will cut into his sleeping-on-the-job time, and Assad is burning coffee and making camel jokes. All of that is fine, it’s part of the allure of the series—a likeable band of misfits that solve decades old crimes—but the actual impetus that compels Carl and his crew to tackle the case is unbelievably absurd.

And even once things get rolling along, there is simply nothing to root for as the reader. There is no urgency to the case. There is nothing dramatic or compelling to pull you in and make you take an interest.

Instead Carl, Rose and Assad attempt to identify a man who seemingly had an affair with every woman in town twenty years ago—and they know he was into fringe religion and sun worship and that he was charismatic and had a great many followers and astoundingly good looks … but no one seems to know where or who this man is today. And we have to read about this for 300-plus pages before he’s finally identified, and it wouldn’t have been so frustrating, except the man they’re looking for isn’t exactly hiding … he’s got a religious compound with a website and everything, and if Department Q had done a simple web search for the man then we could have been spared 300-plus pages of mind-numbing meaningless interviews with “witnesses” who don’t want to help.

But of course then we wouldn’t have a book.

There is also a sub-plot about a woman at the religious compound who is an obsessed follower of the leader and wants to have his babies. As a villain she’s laughable.

I still love this series and I think many readers will find worthwhile entertainment with THE HANGING GIRL—but temper your expectations because it is not up to the standard set by earlier books in this series such as THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE and THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES.

3/5 stars

I read a free digital edition courtesy Penguin Random House First to Read. I use Amazon affiliate links.


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