Scarred Woman
by Adler-Olsen, Jussi; Frost, William (TRN)

Unable to find links between the murder of an elderly woman in a Copenhagen park and another unsolved case that is unsettlingly similar, Detective Carl Mērck of Department Q finds his job and division on the line.

Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s #1 crime writer and a New York Times bestselling author. His books, including the Department Q series, routinely top the bestseller lists in Europe and have sold more than fifteen million copies around the world. His many prestigious Nordic crime-writing awards include the Glass Key Award, also won by Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø, Stieg Larsson, and Peter Høeg.

The legions of readers still enjoying the Millennium books will devour this seventh in a series starring the officers of Copenhagen's cold-case unit, Department Q. The labyrinthine novel features several crimes that may or may not be related-the murder of an elderly woman, possibly by a fed-up granddaughter; the similar-appearing demise of a young woman years before; and a spree by a serial killer who's tired of Denmark's overly generous social system. And those crimes are just the start. It's unfortunate that misogyny rears its head here-equally so that the only minority characters are a Middle Eastern officer who mentions camels far too often and a Somali man who makes an appearance for less than a page to sell a gun. The book also takes too long to get going and is too long overall. Still, it's being marketed to Stieg Larsson's fans and may well appeal to them. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Given the crowded field of wounded, murderous females on display in this seventh case for Copenhagen's Department Q (The Hanging Girl, 2015, etc.), it's hard to know just where to pin the title in this cavalcade of woman's inhumanity to woman.Whoever struck the blow that killed Rigmor Zimmermann and took 10,000 kroner from her handbag seemed to be copying the murder of substitute teacher Stephanie Gundersen more than 10 years ago, with one important difference: Gundersen's killer didn't go the extra mile in humiliation by pissing on her corpse. Carl Mørck, who heads Department Q, seizes the possible connection as avidly as a spaniel on a scent because solving another cold case would be the perfect way to keep Copenhagen's tightfisted budgeters from shutting his unit down. Unfortunately, Carl's boss, Lars Bjørn, has his own idea of the perfect way: allow meddlesome TV crime documentarian Olaf Borg-Pedersen unobstructed access to Department Q's inner workings as they plod from one crime scene to the next. Meanwhile, social worker Anne-Line Svendsen, reprieved from the death sentence she feared her cancer diagnosis spelled, has decided to go ahead anyway with her plan to execute some of the prostitutes she counts among her most worthless clients: Michelle Hansen, Jazmine Jørgensen, Birna Sigurdardottir, Senta Berger, and Denise Zimmermann—some of whom turn out to be quite as homicidally inclined as she is, and one of whom will have a crucial connection to Carl's cold case. The only thing needed to bring the whole mixture to a full boil is the mental breakdown of sorely tried Department Q staffer Rose Knudsen, whose suicide attempt ends up plunging her into the heart of this banquet of mostly female felonies.Instead of focusing on a single high-concept case, Adler-Olsen lays out several florid plotlines and sets his crime-solvers the daunting task of gathering all the threads together. It's such a varied smorgasbord that even re a ders who'd prefer to skip a given dish will find plenty to sate their appetites. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

As always, her face bore traces of the night before. Her skin was dry and the dark circles under her eyes were more pronounced than they'd been when she went to bed.

Denise sneered at her reflection in the mirror. She had now spent an hour on damage control, but it was never good enough.

"You look and smell like a hooker," she said, mimicking her grandmother's voice as she applied her eyeliner one more time.

In the studio apartments around her, the noise signaled that the other tenants were waking up and that it would soon be evening again. It was a well-known cacophony of sounds: the chinking of bottles, the knocking on doors to bum cigarettes, and the constant traffic to and from the run-down toilet with shower that the contract described as exclusive.

The small society of Danish outcasts from one of the darker streets of Frederiksstaden was now set in motion for yet another evening with no real purpose.

After turning around a few times, she stepped toward the mirror to inspect her face close-up.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" She laughed with an indulgent smile as she caressed her reflection with her fingertips. She puckered her lips, let her fingers slide up her hips, over her breasts, up to her neck, and into her hair. She picked some fluff from her angora blouse and dabbed a little foundation on a couple of insufficiently covered blemishes on her face before stepping back with satisfaction. Her plucked and painted eyebrows together with NeuLash-enhanced eyelashes added to her overall appearance. The makeup, together with the glow of her irises, gave her a more intense look, adding with ease an extra element of aloofness.

In other words, she was ready to take on the world.

"I'm Denise," she practiced saying, tensing her throat. It was as deep as her voice could be.

"Denise," she whispered, slowly parting her lips and letting her chin drop toward her chest. The result was fantastic when she adopted this attitude. Some might interpret her look as submissive, but it was exactly the opposite. Wasn't it precisely at this angle that the hotspots-a woman's eyelashes and pupils-best caught the attention of those around her?

Totally in control. She nodded, screwing the lid of her face cream back on and piling her arsenal of cosmetics back in the bathroom cabinet.

After a quick look around the small room she realized that hours of hard work lay ahead of her: clearing away the laundry, making the bed, washing all the glasses, taking out the trash, and sorting all the bottles.

Fuck it, she thought, grabbing the duvet and shaking it and plumping the pillow, convincing herself that when one of her sugar daddies had made it this far, he wouldn't give a damn about the rest.

She sat on the edge of the bed and checked that her handbag had all the essentials she would need.

She nodded with satisfaction. She was ready to take on the world and all its desires.

An unwelcome sound made her turn to face the door. Click, clack, click, clack, came the limping, loathsome sound.

You're far too early, Mother, she thought as the door outside between the stairs and the corridor was pushed open.

It was almost eight o'clock, so why was she coming now? It was way past her dinnertime.

She counted the seconds, already feeling irritated as she got up from the bed, when the knock came at the door.

"Honey!" she heard her mother shouting from the other side. "Won't you open the door?" Denise took deep breaths, remaining silent. If she didn't answer, her mother would surely just go.

"Denise, I know you're in there. Open up just for a moment. I have something important to tell you."

Denise sighed. "And why should I do that? I don't suppose you brought any dinner up with you?" she shouted.

"Not today, no. Oh, won't you come downstairs to eat, Denise? Just for today. Your grandmother is here!"

Denise rolled her eyes. So her grandmother was downstairs. The mere thought was enough to make her heart race and cause her to break out in a sweat.

"Grandmother can kiss my ass. I hate that bitch."

"Oh, Denise, you mustn't talk like that. Won't you just let me in for a moment? I really must speak with you."

"Not now. Just leave the dinner in front of the door, as usual." Apart from the man with the flabby skin who lived a few doors down the corridor, who had already downed his first beer of the day and was now sobbing in despair over his miserable existence, it was suddenly totally quiet out in the corridor. It wouldn't surprise her if everyone was pricking up their ears right at this moment, but what did she care? They could just ignore her mother like she did.

Denise filtered out the sound of her mother's pleas, concentrating instead on the whining coming from the loser down the hall. All the divorced men like him living in studio apartments were just so pathetic and laughable. How could they believe the future might be brighter given how they looked? They stank of unwashed clothes and drank themselves into oblivion in their pitiful loneliness. How could these cringeworthy idiots live with being so pathetic?

Denise snorted. How often had they stood in front of her door in an effort to tempt her with their small talk and cheap wine from Aldi, their eyes betraying hope of something else and more?

As if she would ever associate with men who lived in studio apartments.

"She's brought money with her for us, Denise," her mother said insistently.

Now she had Denise's attention.

"You simply have to come down with me because if you don't she won't give us anything for this month."

There was a pause before she spoke again.

"And then we really won't have anything, will we, Denise?" she said severely.

"Can't you shout a little louder so they can also hear you in the next building?" Denise retorted.

"Denise!" Her mother's voice was now quivering. "I'm warning you. If your grandmother doesn't give us that money, you'll have to go to the social services office because I haven't paid your rent for this month. Or maybe you thought I had?"

Denise took a deep breath, went over to the mirror, and put on her lipstick one final time. Ten minutes with the woman and then she was out of there. She had nothing but shit and confrontation coming her way. The bitch wouldn't leave her in peace for a second. She would just come with demand after demand. And if there was something Denise couldn't deal with, it was all the demands people put on her. It simply drained all the life and energy out of her.

It depleted her.

Down on the first floor in her motherÕs apartment there was a not unexpected stench of tinned mock turtle soup. Once in a while it might be cutlets only just past their sell-by date or rice pudding in sausage-shaped plastic packaging. There wasnÕt exactly entrec™te on the menu when her mother attempted to put on a spread, which the blemished silver-plated candlesticks with spluttering candles emphasized.

In this flickering artificial ambience the vulture was already seated at the center of the table, scowling and ready to attack. Denise was almost knocked out from the stench of her cheap perfume and powder, which no shop with any self-respect would demean itself to sell.

Now her grandmother parted her dry, red, blotchy lips. Maybe the vulture was preparing to smile, but Denise was not so easily fooled. She attempted to count to ten but this time made it to only three before the woman's verbal abuse began.

"Well! The little princess could finally find time to come down and say hello."

A dark and disapproving look came over the grandmother's face after a quick inspection of Denise's seminude midriff.

"Already plastered with makeup and I don't know what. No one will miss you coming, because that really would be a catastrophe, wouldn't it, Dorrit?"

"Would you stop calling me that? It's almost ten years since I changed my name."

"Since you ask so politely, yes, as it isn't something one is accustomed to from you. Then you think that name becomes you better, do you . . . Denise? A little more French. It almost puts one in mind of the suggestively dressed ladies of the night, so, yes, maybe it is more fitting." She looked her up and down. "Then congratulations with the camouflage work, is all I can say. You've prepared yourself for the hunt, I wouldn't wonder."

Denise noticed how her mother tried to calm the mood with a slight touch of her hand on her grandmother's arm, as if that had ever worked. Even in that area her mother had always been weak.

"And what have you been up to, if one might inquire?" continued her grandmother. "There was something about a new course, or was it actually an internship?" She squinted. "Was it a job as a nail technician you wanted to try this time? I almost can't keep up with all the excitement in your life, so you'll have to help me. But wait, maybe you're not actually doing anything at the moment? Could that be it?"

Denise didn't answer. She just tried to keep her lips sealed. Her grandmother raised her eyebrows. "Oh yes, you're much too precious for work, aren't you?"

Why did she bother asking when she had all the answers? Why was she sitting there hiding behind her wiry grey hair in a mask of disgust? It made you want to spit at her. What stopped her from doing it?

"Denise has decided to enroll in a course to learn how to coach people," interjected her mother bravely.

The metamorphosis was enormous. Her grandmother's mouth was open, aghast; the wrinkles on her nose disappeared; and after a short pause the change was accompanied by a laugh that came so deep from within her rotten core that it made the hair on Denise's neck stand on end.

"Oh, that's what she's decided, is it? An interesting thought, Denise coaching other people. Just in what, exactly, if I might inquire? Is it actually possible to find anyone in this disturbed world who would want to be coached by someone who can do absolutely nothing besides dolling themselves up? In that case, the world must have come to a complete standstill."

"Mother-" Denise's mother attempted to interrupt.

"Be quiet, Birgit. Let me finish." She turned toward Denise. "I will be direct. I don't know anyone as lazy, talentless, or with so little sense of reality as you, Denise. Shall we agree that you actually can't do anything? Isn't it high time that you tried to get a job to fit your modest talents?" She waited for an answer, but none was forthcoming. She shook her head, leaving Denise in no doubt as to what was coming next.

"I have said it before and I have warned you, Denise. Maybe you think it is acceptable to just lie on your back? It's downright shocking. You're not as beautiful as you think, my dear, and certainly won't be in five years, I'm afraid."

Denise inhaled deeply through her nose. Two more minutes and she'd be out of here.

Now her grandmother turned to her mother with the same cold, contemptuous expression. "You were the same, Birgit. Thought only of yourself, never doing anything to get on in life. What would you have done without your father and me? If we hadn't paid for everything while you squandered life away in your self-obsessed megalomania?"

"I have worked, Mother." Her tone was pitiable. It was years since her ammunition of protests hadn't fallen on deaf ears.

It was now Denise's turn again, as her grandmother turned her attention back toward her, shaking her head.

"And as for you! You couldn't even get a job folding clothes, if that's what you think."

Denise turned around and disappeared into the kitchen with the poison from her grandmother trailing behind her.

If it was possible to see what was inside her grandmother, the ingredients could be laid out in equal measure of intense hatred, vengeance, and unending images of how different she thought everything had once been. Denise had heard the same fake nonsense over and over, and it was irritatingly hurtful every time. About what a good family she and her mother came from; about the golden years when her grandfather had had his shoe shop in R¿dovre and earned really good money.

All a load of crap! Hadn't the women in this family always stayed at home and done their duty? Hadn't they been supported solely by their husbands, been meticulous about their appearance, and looked after the home?

Hell yes!

"Mother! You mustn't be too hard on her. She-"

"Denise is twenty-seven and is good for exactly nothing, Birgit. Nothing!" shouted the witch. "How do you two propose to survive when I'm not here anymore, can you answer me that? Don't for one second expect any significant inheritance from me. I have my own needs."

Something else they had heard a hundred times before. In a moment she would attack Denise's mother again. She would call her shabby and a failure, before accusing her of passing on all her negative qualities to her granddaughter.

Denise felt disgust and hatred right to the pit of her stomach. She hated the shrill voice, attacks, and demands. Hated her mother for being so weak and for not having been able to keep a man who could look after them all. Hated her grandmother precisely because that was what she had done.

Why wouldn't she just lie down and die?

"I'm out of here," said Denise coldly when she stepped back into the dining room.

"Oh, are you, now? Well then, you won't be having this." Her grandmother pulled a bundle of notes from her handbag and held it in front of them. One-thousand-kroner notes.

"Come and sit down now, Denise," her mother implored.

"Yes, come and sit down for a moment before you go out and sell yourself," came the next tirade from her grandmother. "Eat your mother's awful meal before you head out to find men to ply you with booze. But be careful, Denise, because the way you are, you'll never find a decent man who'll go for you! A cheap girl with fake hair and hair color, fake breasts, fake jewelry, and bad skin. Don't you think they'll see through you in a second, my dear? Or maybe you think a decent man can't tell the difference between elegance and your cheap appearance? Maybe you don't think that as soon as you open your bloodred mouth that he'll immediately discover that you know absolutely nothing and have nothing to say? That you're just a waste of space?"

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