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Department Q Books in Order: How to read Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series?

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I quite like the movie adaptations of the Department Q, but as I always say, we are here for the books. So, let’s go…

What is the Department Q series about?

Written by Danish novelist Jussi Adler-Olsen, Department Q is a series of crime thriller novels. The series follows Carl Morck, one of the best homicide detectives in Copenhagen who has been ‘promoted’ to the cold case department, of which he is the head and sole employee.

When Carl demands an assistant, he gets a lot more than he bargained for with Assad, a sort of Jack-of-all-trades. From there, everything changes…

There’s a film series based on the novels starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Carl Mørck and Fares Fares as Assad–in the first four movies–, then Ulrich Thomsen and Zaki Youssef in the next ones.

Department Q Books in Order

Reading the Department Q series is as straightforward as it is, the chronological order is also the publication order. There is one thing to know: the American and English publishers gave different titles.

The Keeper of Lost Causes 166x250 The Absent One 166x250 A Conspiracy of Faith 166x250

  1. The Keeper of Lost Causes (US) or Mercy (UK) – Carl Mørck used to be one of Denmark’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of cold cases for the company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead…yet.
  2. The Absent One (US) or Disgrace (UK) – Carl Mørck has settled into Department Q and is ready to take on another cold case. This time, it’s the brutal double murder of a brother and sister two decades earlier. One of the suspects confessed and is serving time, but it’s clear to Mørck that all is not what it seems. Kimmie, a homeless woman with secrets involving certain powerful individuals, could hold the key—if Mørck can track her down before they do…
  3. A Conspiracy of Faith (US) or Redemption (UK) – In Copenhagen’s cold case division Carl Mørck has received a bottle. It holds an old and decayed message, written in blood. It is a cry for help from two boys. Is it real? Who are they and why weren’t they reported missing? Can they possibly still be alive?

The Purity of Vengeance 166x250 The Marco Effect 166x250 The Hanging Girl 166x250

  1. The Purity of Vengeance (US) or Guilt (UK) – Detective Carl Mørck from Copenhagen’s cold case division is looking into the disappearance of Rita Nielsen, an escort agency owner. The investigation reveals that Rita is only one piece of the puzzle. Because this is not a one-off incident – but part of a disturbing pattern which has been hidden from prying eyes for over twenty years…
  2. The Marco Effect (US) or Buried (UK) – When Fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson discovers a dead body that proves the true extent of his uncle’s criminal activities, he goes on the run. But it turns out his family members aren’t the only ones who want to keep Marco silent…forever. Detective Carl Mørck wants to save the boy, but Marco’s trail leads him to a case that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups.
  3. The Hanging Girl – Carl is forced to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a hidden cult, where Carl and his assistants must stop a string of new murders by a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything-or anyone-get in the way.

The Scarred Woman 166x250 Victim 2117 Department Q Books in Order 166x250 The Shadow Murders Department Q Books in Order 165x250

  1. The Scarred Woman – Detective Carl Mørck of Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case division, meets his toughest challenge yet when the dark, troubled past of one of his own team members collides with a sinister unsolved murder. It is up to Carl, Assad, and Gordon to uncover the dark and violent truth at the heart of their colleague Rose’s childhood before it is too late.
  2. Victim 2117 – The newspaper refers to the body only as Victim 2117—the two thousand one hundred and seventeenth refugee to die in the Mediterranean Sea. But to three people, the unnamed victim is so much more, and the death sets off a chain of events that throws Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division led by Detective Carl Mørck, into a deeply dangerous—and deeply personal—case. A case that not only reveals dark secrets about the past, but has deadly implications for the future.
  3. The Shadow Murders – On her 60th birthday, a woman takes her own life. When the case lands on Detective Carl Mørck’s desk, he can’t imagine what this has to do with Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division. It’s a tragedy to be sure, but the cause of death seems to be clear. But his superior, Marcus Jacobsen, is convinced that this is not in fact a suicide, but a murder related to an unsolved case that has been plaguing him since 1988.


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