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Book review: <i>The Marco Effect</i> by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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the cover of the book

Marco is stateless, fifteen years old, and on the run from just about everybody. His uncle Zola thinks he knows too much, but Marco is struggling to figure out why. Can he alone solve the mysteries and murders he's been unwittingly tied up in, before he's caught by the crooks or the cops?

The story

When government official Rene Eriksen receives a phone-call from his old school-friend Teis Snap, he's given some bad news. Karrebaek Bank, of which Teis is MD, is going under – along with a substantial quantity of Rene's investments. Teis convinces Rene to syphon some funds out of his department and re-route them to Karrebaek, under the guise of providing assistance for a small group of Baka, an indigenous African tribe suffering the onslaught of development. It's nothing that hasn't been done before, and money goes missing in Africa all the time. Everything, Teis assures Rene, will be fine.

Everything is not fine. One of the African activists becomes problematic, as well as one of the government employees on the Danish end. Rene can't risk exposure, and reluctantly agrees to Teis's extreme measures – and the bodies begin piling up.

Marco is a fifteen year old Romney Gypsy, recently moved to Denmark with a large extended family and no legal status. He and his family pickpocket and beg on the streets, but Marco realises this isn't the life he wants and he needs to extricate himself from the tyrannical hold of his uncle Zola if he's going to have a chance at living a normal life.

During an altercation with Zola, Marco stumbles over a secret – Zola has been working for Teis, doing some of his dirtier work – and there's a body to prove it. Marco is running for his life, avoiding Zola, the police, and everyone who could get him in trouble. Department Q, headed up by the difficult Carl Morck and his ragtag collection of assistants, are Marco's only chance at survival. But can they find Marco before it's too late?

The style

Plot-wise, The Marco Effect is solid. Third person limited, divided into short chapters who each focus on one character or another, the reader gets a good overarching understanding of what is a quite convoluted plot. There's no big reveal for the reader; we know pretty much what's happening throughout, so the main attraction is rooting for the good guys to win and suffering through their near misses and losses. It's a fun way to read, and the story is well told – I couldn't wait for my twice-daily train trips to get another dose of where the story would go next. Marco endures a lot, and the police characters are varied and excellently presented. Carl Morck is honest about where he is weak, and each of the characters are cursed with human foibles and stubbornness. The storyline touches on prejudice in Denmark's psyche, both against gypsies and the gay community, and this ads another dimension to the reading experience.

Translated by Martin Aitken, the story reads well, although there is a certain stiffness in some of the dialogue which would have Leonard Elmore and Steven King rolling over a little in their proverbial graves. The plot line more than makes up for this, which can probably be attributed to translation anyway. The Marco Effect is another sound example of what the Nords to excellently – crime fiction.

Who is this book for?

Lovers of Nordic Noir, enjoy – The Marco Effect ticks all the boxes.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Wallander, straight off the bat. Also, Jussi Adler-Olsen has written heaps of other books about Department Q, so if you haven't read those that's probably something to consider!

In short

Title: The Marco Effect
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-525-95402-6
Year published: 2014
Pages: 496
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: