The Absent One (US) Disgrace (UK) – Jussi Adler-Olsen (Department Q Series)

This is one of the horrifying and yet gripping book i have come across yet. Horrifying because of the portrayal of human depravity and gripping because once i started reading it, i could not put it down.

This is the second book by Jussi Adler-Olsen in the Department Q series, and as before, the title is different for US and UK release. Carl Morck continues to astound us with his sarcasm “That was the thing about holidays. They came to an end.” With his who-cares persona, he keeps dazzling us with his wit and intuition where solving difficult and cold cases are concerned. Still enjoying his goodwill from the solving of the first case, Carl finds himself deeply involved in the next one, which on the face of it is solved – someone has confessed to the crime and is already serving sentence, initially perplexed as to why this case would end up at his desk, he finds himself intrigued and involved as the clues / gaps keep on adding.

A group of six friends discover a dark side of their nature – which is revealed to them at the height of intoxication – both with alcohol and drugs, they find themselves enjoying brutally assaulting random people / strangers, even killing them. This high gave them a unique and heightened sexual pleasure. Five of them from upper elite class of society, finds that cooperative victims can be easily payed off and uncooperative ones can be killed, hence their brutality, violence and depravity continuing to grow along their lives. Turning point is when the five boys of the gang rape the sixth – who is a girl, Kimmie, She finds herself traumatised and humiliated after the violent episode and her solace is in the pregnancy. Her withdrawal and pregnancy incites the others and physical assault leads to her losing her child and mental breakdown.

The hunter and the prey keeps exchanging as the story progresses, with Carl Morck and his Syrian assistant Assad thrown into the mix. The story concludes with Carl finding physical evidence of the murders and himself at the mercy of these monsters. Kimmie arrives on time for her revenge, kills the bad guys and saves the police (who has shown her understanding) and then she commits suicide, as her mission in life is achieved.

Assad and Carl provide the much required humour and a sense of sanity. Manipulation of Carl into letting his boss pursue the case – inspite of orders to the contrary from so called senior management, and argument that the case is actually already solved and is not cold to be re-opened, is so surreal, its almost a training on “how to manipulate your boss” in any scenario.

The details of the assaults, the trauma of the victims, the reasons, the method, the pleasure from these attacks and killings, escalation to the point of madness and ultimate fall from the sky is riveting. Does money allows people to trade their humanity? Its a compelling book with captivating characters and a spellbinding plot.

“They earned millions, but it was the killing that made them feel alive.”

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