The most despicable tragedy of the last decade has been Bashar al-Assad’s war on the Syrian people to retain power. The actions of the Russian and Turkish governments have exacerbated the situation that has produced the death of over 400,000 people and created over 5,000,000 refugees. In VICTIM 2117, Jussi Adler-Olsen’s latest work, the author introduces the Syrian catastrophe at Ayia Naba, a beach in Cyprus as 37 bodies have washed ashore having drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to escape their home country. At the same time there is an emotionally stunted young man who recently graduated high school named Alexander who lives in Copenhagen. Alexander is a virtual gamer who claims 2080 wins and in his demented mind has added the 37 drowning victims he read about in the newspaper to his total, 2117. This milestone now reached has set in motion Alexander’s plan to kill his parents and wreak havoc on the public.
If this plot line was not enough, Adler-Olsen focuses on Joan Aiguader, a self-promoter and a struggling free-lance journalist for a newspaper in Barcelona who has hit rock bottom until he becomes interested in the increasing numbers of refugee drownings, particularly 37 in Cyprus. Twisting his story line further Adler-Olsen zeroes in Assad, a member of Department Q of the Copenhagen Police Department who has appeared in most of the author’s previous novels. It seems that Assad has kept his past hidden from Carl Morck his superior in Department Q who believed that the man who had introduced himself ten years ago as “Hafez el-Assad, a Syrian refugee with green rubber gloves and a bucket by his feet. But inside he was really Zaid al-Asadi: special forces soldier, language officer, Iraqi, and almost fluent Danish speaker. The man was one hell of a gifted actor.” Assad’s tortured past involves what transpired 16 years previously at the hands of a Sunni terrorist and former official under Saddam Hussein named Abdul Azim or Ghaalib, a man who had kidnapped Assad’s pregnant wife and two daughters who Assad believed were dead for all of those years.
For those familiar with Adler-Olsen’s previous novels, VICTIM 2117 will not disappoint. For those who are reading his work for the first time you probably will become hooked as he has deftly created a story with resonance today as he intertwines a series of plotlines. Apart from Assad and Morck a number of characters from previous novels appear, though VICTIM 2117 can stand alone. Adler-Olsen takes the reader back to Fallujah in Iraq at a time when United Nations weapons inspectors are looking for Saddam’s Weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Events that take place are part of Assad’s past but they tie into a great deal of contemporary evidence, particularly newspaper photos of Marwa, Assad’s wife, and daughter appearing alive as well as a photo of the body of Lely Kebaki, an old woman who had taken care of Assad’s family when he was a boy as they had to flee Iraq and Saddam.
Assad’s life before Department Q is quite revealing and he will be supported by Morck and company, Roe and Gordon, including the new Chief of Homicide, Marcus Jacobsen. Adler-Olsen provides a tense novel with a number of twists and turns linking the past and the present. Morck’s quick wit and sarcasm is on full display as is the commentary provided by his assistant Rose, a depressive personality who has returned to Department Q after an absence of two years.
Adler-Olsen may have been a juggler in a previous life because he is able to maintain a number of plots floating in the air, all at the same time. VICTIM 2117 is a complex story that as you read on it is very difficult to put down as Assad tries to locate his arch enemy and rescue his family who he is afraid he will not recognize and conversely will not recognize him. As the novel is about to come to fruition and you think the terror will subside, Adler-Olsen introduces another twist that will leave you hanging. If the book is as satisfying as I believe you will probably want to consult Adler-Olsen’s previous seven books dealing with the adventures of Department Q.