Skip to main content

The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel


The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel

Review #1 by Joe Hartlaub

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels get better and better. Department Q, which was established as a way to get a difficult Copenhagen police detective named Carl Mørk consigned to a basement office and thus out of sight and out of mind, backfired from the get-go.

In the hands of Adler-Olsen, Carl is an unlikable but oddly sympathetic character who is saddled with a couple of oddball assistants. Assad is a classic fish out of water, a Middle Easterner in the center of Denmark who is an enigma and, as demonstrated in THE MARCO EFFECT, has an unknown history with one of Carl’s least favorite co-workers. Rose is extremely difficult, subject to mood swings and to occasional behavior that is inappropriate for an office setting, yet she has the capability. That Carl rebels against his best instincts and lets them have their head is one of his many strengths, which counterbalance his more personal and professional destructive impulses.

"Adler-Olsen’s descriptions of Zola’s escapes from pursuit are alone worth your investment in time and money in THE MARCO EFFECT."

THE MARCO EFFECT gets rolling for Carl and Department Q when Assad and Rose follow a whimsy and pick up a missing persons case involving William Stark, a civil servant who, while on a fact-finding mission in Africa, abruptly returned to Copenhagen early and promptly disappeared. Carl is more or less steamrolled into taking the case, but while it takes the team a bit of time to discover what is going on, the reader is already aware of what happened to Stark. One of the keys to the puzzle is a 15-year-old boy named Marco Jameson, a member of an extended family of criminals, cons and grifters who has fallen out of favor with Zola, the family patriarch and Marco’s uncle. Marco discovers Stark’s grisly fate while on the run from Zola and his group of enforcers. This makes Marco’s situation all the more dangerous, given that Zola now finds it crucial to track him down and dispose of him before he can reveal all that he knows.

Marco, however, is a child of the streets, and his time of semi-voluntary employment under Zola has given him an unusual set of survival skills that he utilizes to their fullest extent as he evades not only Zola’s minions but also the police. Adler-Olsen’s descriptions of Zola’s escapes from pursuit are alone worth your investment in time and money in THE MARCO EFFECT. This is particularly true when Zola’s efforts to recover Marco are all for naught, and the man behind the curtain who originally retained Zola for the bit of dirty work involving Stark’s disappearance brings in the A team from abroad.

Meanwhile, Department Q is a step or two behind everything and everyone, including Marco, but is uncovering a few facts on their own, which, in turn, leads to more questions. It all comes together eventually, both in spite of and because of Carl’s best efforts, at least professionally.

Carl’s personal life is a mess, and near the end of THE MARCO EFFECT, I was screaming “NO!” at one point when he… You really need to read the book, and the other four, which previously have been published in the United States as of this date. More are coming (thanks to the efforts of Danish translators, including Martin Aitken and Steve Schein), but jump on now while the backlist is still manageable.


Review #2 by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum

Marco Jameson is a young boy who just wants to go to school in Denmark and be free of his violent family. His uncle Zola has a king's-like hold on his clan, and while Marco's father is this tyrant's brother, he is a weakling who would probably kill Marco if Zola commanded him to do so.

Detective Carl Mørk is a middle-aged cop whose assistants Assad and Rose are making his mid-life crisis worse. On top of that, his nemesis is now his boss in Department Q. Two cases are on his desk: a fire that burned a woman beyond recognition and sunk her boat, and a missing man whose girlfriend has a daughter who is very ill. Although Carl doesn't want to handle the latter case, Rose is adamant that they solve it.

None of them know that the missing man, William Stark, is part of a scam stemming from the bank he works for, which reaches to Cameroon. Stark has been set up to be murdered when he returns from his trip. Since Marco found the body and knows that his uncle (and probably his father), along with his uncle’s thugs, killed the man, he takes off running for his life.

"Jussi Adler-Olsen has written a tense, riveting, suspenseful and quirky novel.... THE MARCO EFFECT is, simply put, a gem."

Marco has found a job passing posters around the city, and one day comes across the face of the missing man. He is startled and dumbfounded. When he was running away from his uncle and his henchmen, he came across a dead body, and the face was the one on the poster. Marco doesn't know what to do. He found shelter with two gay men who own a cleaning store, and they invited him to live with them. He thinks perhaps he should talk to them about what he knows; maybe they can advise him. But before he has a chance, his uncle's thugs break into the safe house and beat up one of the men while destroying everything they have. They throw Marco out, and he is left penniless because he didn't have a chance to retrieve his money from its hiding place.

As the narrative unfolds, readers learn that the gypsy clan uses children to go out and beg for money everyday. Most of the kids are maimed in some way, which makes them more successful at begging because Zola believes children who are disabled are more sympathetic. Marco is not hurt, and yet he is the most successful of the kids. But his uncle has a plan in place to maim him like the others. Marco is only 15 but very advanced in the ways of the world in which he lives.

With the change in command at the police station haunting him, Carl also finds that the breakup with Mona Ibsen, his psychologist girlfriend, has summarized their relationship as over. He has been blindsided with this account of what he thought was a mutual loving couple going in the direction of a closer bond. He had bought her a ring, which sits in its silk purse left in his pocket. The new man in charge has "given" Carl a rookie cop named Gordon Taylor, who reports everything back to his mentor and Carl's tormentor.

Jussi Adler-Olsen has written a tense, riveting, suspenseful and quirky novel. The seamless sewing of each of the stories makes for a feeling that, while all the chaos goes on, the end will be a perfectly finished schematic. The architecture of the book embraces family fear, illness, blackmail, extortion, murder and children being used as slaves. Readers will be cheering for the police, especially Carl Mørk and his assistants. THE MARCO EFFECT is, simply put, a gem.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub and Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on September 19, 2014

The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel
by Jussi Adler-Olsen