THE MARCO EFFECT by Jussi Adler-Olsen



(Copenhagen Police Headquarters)

The story begins in the remote Bantu village of Somolarmo during the autumn of 2008.  Louis Fon who was in charge of a Danish development project in the Dja jungle of Cameroon notices two men approaching; a white man, and Mbomo Ziem who was an errand boy for Danish government officials.  Later, Louis noticed that Mbomo was giving bags of alcohol to pygmy Bantu villagers, and that substantial sums of money were missing from the project he oversaw.  Shortly thereafter, Mbomo approached Fon with a machete, forcing him to flee.  As fast as he ran he could not escape, and as he was dying from his wounds he was able to send a text message on his cell phone.  This is how Jussi Adler-Olsen’s latest novel that employs “Department Q” of the Copenhagen police force entitled, THE MARCO EFFECT begins.  As in the four previous books in the series the reader’s attention is captured almost immediately.

The plot centers around Kannebaek Bank, one of Denmark’s leading financial institutions.  With the bank about to go under because of the 2008 economic meltdown, its chairman, Jens Brage-Schmidt along with two other bank officials hatch an embezzlement scheme involving the Danish Evaluation Department for Developmental Assistance to make the bank solvent.  Problems develop when a civil servant named William Stark is sent to Cameroon to investigate Fron’s sudden disappearance learns that his final text message read, “corruption dans l’aide de development Dja.”  This knowledge places a number of individuals, including Stark in grave danger leading to a series of murders.

As with all of Adler-Olsen’s “Department Q” novels there are a number of plot lines that eventually seem to merge together.  The current mystery is no exception as in addition to the Danish bank fraud, the author introduces the role of a gypsy type clan, and the remnants of an old case that still causes difficulty for Carl Morck, the head of Department Q.  Marco Jamison is a twelve year old boy who rebels against his clan leader named Zola, who is also his uncle.  The clan operates on a number of levels including murder, pick pocketing, injury scams, and other mechanisms to exploit the general population.  When Marco decides he no longer wishes to remain part of the clan, he runs away and hides from Zola’s henchmen.  While in hiding, Marco comes across a corpse buried on the side of the road.  Finally, Marco eludes Zola’s search party and wanders the streets of Copenhagen for over three years working and living with a gay couple who took him in off the streets.  Then out of nowhere, the clan caught up with him.  Due to the curiosity of Assad; a member of Detective Morck’s Department Q, who also seems to have been a Syrian intelligence operative before immigrating to Denmark, and Rose, who suffers from periodic episodes of multiple personality, the death of William Stark, the missing civil servant turns up on Morck’s desk.  From this point on the novel gains momentum as the author doubles down on his plot.

Adler-Olsen introduces a number of new characters into the series.  A number appear from previous books; Mika and Morten; a gay couple who lives in Morck’s house, and care for Hardy, a colleague of Morck’s who was paralyzed in a shootout investigating a previous case; Mona Ibsen, now Carl’s ex-girlfriend, who he had hoped to marry; and Lars Bjorn who is elevated to head the Homicide Division replacing, the now retired Marcus Jacobsen.  The major new character is an intern who was attending law school by the name of Gordon Thomas, who is also sexually obsessed with Rose, and becomes a thorn in Morck’s side.  The important characters that are unique to THE MARCO EFFECT include; Zola, the head of the gypsy type clan; Rene Eriksen, Head of the Danish Evaluation Department for Developmental Assistance; Teis Snap, manager of Kannebaek Bank; Jens Brage-Schmidt, Chairman of Kannebaek Bank; and Marco Jameson, who tried to sever all connections with the Zola’s clan and begin a new life.  The roles of Assad and Rose continue to develop as their insight and acumen involving the case places them in a position of importance as the plot unfolds.

Parts of the book fits the description of a thriller as those pages seem to drip with tension as different forces try and capture Marco.  At first, the repeated chases and escapes are effective, however, after what seem like repeated “Houdini type” escapes it seemed overdone.  Perhaps Marco’s plight could have been couched differently as the novel progresses.  As usual Adler-Olsen has a great deal to say about problems in Danish society be it Copenhagen’s underworld, issues dealing with immigration, corporate corruption, and civil servants who abscond with government funds. In all cases it is not difficult to ascertain the author’s viewpoint and he provides hints how these problems could be solved.

In conclusion, THE MARCO EFFECT measures up well to the previous novels in the series.  All the elements of an excellent mystery are present, including a rather unsuspecting ending.  If you have enjoyed Adler-Olsen’s previous work, his current effort will not disappoint.


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