The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen

purity of vengeanceThe Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen, translated by Martin Aitken
Dutton, December 2013
Originally published as Journal 64 with a variant title Journal fireogtreds, 2010

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

I’ve skipped books two and three in the Department Q series not because I disliked the series or the first outing in the series, The Keeper of Lost Causes, but just because I’ve been reading other things. After reading this interesting interview with Adler-Olsen earlier in the year, I thought I may try the series again, and while I enjoyed this outing, I have a few reservations.

The Purity of Vengeance involves Mørck, Assad, and Rose investigating a cold case involving a missing brothel owner who disappeared over twenty years before. The other timeline in the novel involves the life of Nete Hermanson, a woman who kills her husband and tries killing herself in the early pages of the novel as a man she meets at a party threatens to expose her past life. Nete’s past is the main focus of the story. The old missing persons investigation intersects with Nete’s story, and there are connections to ultra-right-wing politicians as well. Finally, the novel also advances the plot of Mørck’s wounding in a prior attack that left one of his fellow officers dead and another paralyzed. Thankfully, Adler-Olsen juggles the plots well, and the pace is fairly brisk.

My reservation with this book is the same one I had with The Keeper of Lost Causes: the crime Department Q investigates in this one is another one where women are horribly treated in myriad ways. In the first book it was an indictment of one crazed killer and his torture of a female politician, and in this, book four, it’s an indictment of a large group that was responsible for forced sterilizations of a large number of women. It’s heavy subject matter, and I feel strange saying that the book was written well or that I was interested in the ongoing storylines of Mørck and Assad when the main plot was so horrible to women. I hope not all books in this proposed ten-book series are as brutal to women as this one is.

Find below a list of the US and UK titles for the books in the series:

  1. The Keeper of Lost Causes/ Mercy
  2. The Absent One/ Disgrace
  3. A Conspiracy of Faith/ Redemption
  4. The Purity of Vengeance/ Contempt

11 thoughts on “The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen

  1. Rebecca – I’ll admit I’ve not read this one yet but I do know what you mean about some of the subject matter in this series. I don’t blame you for being put off by it. I have to admit I like the characters, though. Thanks as ever for your thoughtful and well-written review.

  2. I’ve just started reading this one, so have skimmed your review. I enjoyed the last one – as Margot says, mainly for the characters – but haven’t read enough of this one yet to decide. Have a great New Year and here’s to many more bookie delights in 2014!

    • Thanks, FictionFan, and happy new year to you too! I’ll keep an eye out for your review. According the interview I linked to, Assad’s backstory is fleshed out in book 8. That’s a long wait.

  3. I’ve read the first three books in the series and all of them are at the very top end of my scale of violence, with most of it being directed at women (though in the last one there was also violence towards children). I must admit that though I like the police characters I’m not terribly keen to get back to the series

    • Thanks for the information about the books I’ve missed, Bernadette. I think I’ll jump back in at book 8 to get Assad’s story instead of reading them all. I think I’m getting close to burning out on crime novels, or at least I need to be pickier this year about what I finish.

  4. I know what you’re saying. The violence towards women has put me off many writers, and has caused me to skip sections or stio reading some books, I wonder what it means sociologically. Why do readers read these books?
    I liked Mercy and got turned off by the serial killer’s point of view and the violence against children
    I long for good stories, puzzles and character development, maybe political/social issues examined, humor, etc.

    • I find myself finishing books after skimming gruesome parts too, Kathy: I’m glad I’m not alone. I really want to abandon books that don’t work for me so I can move on to something less exploitative, but sometimes I feel like I have to finish, but I don’t know exactly why.

  5. I have a couple of the earlier ones, just not read them yet so it’s unlikely I’ll get to this anytime this decade. I’ll be interested to see my reaction to his “violence”

    • He’s a good writer, the characters are very distinct, but the central crimes are really gruesome, at least in the two books I’ve read. Maybe they seem especially gruesome because the books are fairly long. I just read a short book with violent bursts that were plenty disturbing, and it seemed more effective than long violent reads.

  6. […] Previously, she reviewed the latest in the Carl Mørck Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Purity of Vengeance, which left her with mixed feelings: “I feel strange saying that the book was written well or that I was interested in the ongoing storylines of Mørck and Assad when the main plot was so horrible to women,” she writes, Like the first novel in the series (The Keeper of Lost Causes, also published under the title Mercy), the plot focuses on people who hate women. How that focus is handled (and for what purpose) is one of the biggest open questions in this genre, in my opinion. […]

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