cover image The Hanging Girl: A Department Q Novel

The Hanging Girl: A Department Q Novel

Jussi Adler-Olson, trans. from the Danish by William Frost. Dutton, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-525-95494-1

The suicide of Christian Habersaat, a recently retired police sergeant from Bornholm, Denmark, kicks off Jussi Adler-Olson’s underwhelming sixth Department Q novel (after 2014’s The Marco Effect). Det. Insp. Carl Mørcks looks into an unsolved case from 17 years earlier that consumed Habersaat’s life—the hit-and-run death of high school student Alberte Goldschmid. The story becomes more complicated when Habersaat’s grown son, Bjarke, kills himself and young women start disappearing from the Nature Absorption Academy, a sun cult. The female characters are gratingly one-note: nearly all their narratives revolve around stealing men or getting revenge on the women who stole their men. Adler-Olsen is evidently relying on readers’ knowledge of previous books to understand his characters’ motivations, but without such a background, the detectives come off as flat and underdeveloped. It is a truism that good writing follows the rule of “show, don’t tell”; unfortunately, when it comes to its characters, this crime thriller neither shows nor tells. (Sept.)