After Mercy and Disgrace, we have a new offering from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. Redemption is the third novel in the Department Q series featuring cold case detective Carl Mørck. He is asked to investigate an old and decayed message that has been found in a bottle. Forensic examination indicates that it was written using human blood and, by painstakingly deciphering the jumble of legible letters still on the note, the team realise that they are reading a cry for help from two young boys.
The kidnapping and murder of children is always a difficult subject to write about well. The writer cleverly juxtaposes the cold case with the latest attempts by the kidnapper to ingratiate himself into a family to kidnap the children. This means that we get the immediacy of a real-time sequence of events with a more reflective investigation into a strange and disturbing message in a bottle.
The character of the kidnapper is given plenty of depth. A disturbed childhood dominated by religious mania has repercussions for minor religious sects later in life. I think more could have been made of the close religious communities that we get glimpses of. Their claustrophobic way of life means that, when harm is done to them, they shy away from involving the police and other representatives of authority and prefer to rely on the help of those in their small circle of acquaintances. This allows the presence of a serial killer in Denmark to go unnoticed for a significant period of time.
Carl Mørck keeps a relatively low profile in this book and I actually preferred the present day kidnapping mystery although the message in the bottle gives a poignancy to the narrative that hangs over the whole book. The novel is a compelling and strange read and highly recommended to anyone who wants to read something a little different to the usual Scandinavian crime fiction fare.