Friday, June 5, 2015

The Alphabet House - Jussi Adler-Olsen

I'm a huge fan of Jussi Adler-Olsen's Department Q mysteries featuring Detective Carl Morck.

I thought it was the next entry in the series, but it's actually an older stand alone book from Adler-Olsen making a North America debut.

Two British pilots, James Teasdale and Bryan Young are doing flyover photo reconnaissance of a German town during WW2 when their plane is shot down. In an attempt to avoid capture, they jump on a train of wounded German soldiers. And finally in desperation, they throw two Germans off the train and take their places. Unbeknownst the them until later, the train is full of shell shocked SS officers bound for a mental hospital.

Teasdale and Young are too good at their subterfuge - they end up admitted to the hospital and subjected to treatment. Much time passes - until one of them escapes. And one is left.

I thought this was a great idea for a book. Indeed, it has its basis in reality. Adler-Olsen's father worked in a psychiatric facility and Jussi wondered about malingerers or those living out their lives in such a facility.

Once the two Brits land in The Alphabet House, the pacing of the novel slows down. Adler-Olsen draws out the time, echoing what the two servicemen would be feeling. There are many cringe worthy moments that can only make the reader appreciate that much of this is based in reality.

The second half is from 1975 when the the first goes back looking for his comrade. In this second half the pace picks up as we discover what happened in the last thirty years to both men. And how the past has a long reach....

The Alphabet House explores war, friendship and the innate desire to live, all couched in a tense, atmospheric narrative. Read an excerpt of The Alphabet House.

The audio version has Graeme Malcolm as a reader. He's one of my favourite narrators - his rich, sonorous voice easily conveys emotions and ambiance. And I love his accent! Listen to an excerpt of The Alphabet House.

And the next Department Q novel? The Hanging Girl is due out in September 2015. Definitely on my must read list!

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