Denmark's Adler-Olsen was already famous for other things when he turned to writing thrillers (as a publisher, editor, biographer, comic-book impresario, and a leader of the peace movement in Denmark). All are experiences, he says, that find their way into his mystery writing.
If you like the dark humor, wisecracking, and layered betrayals of Raymond Chandler, then read Adler-Olsen's Department Q series.
The Detective: Denmark may be the happiest nation on Earth, but Inspector Carl Mørck is not smiling. One of those maverick souls who can travel to the underworld and bring back news of the dead, he has been exiled to Department Q – the basement headquarters for a unit tasked with solving Copenhagen's very coldest cases.
Background: The Department Q novels have unsettling scenes of confinement: a politician held captive for years in a cage; two brothers kept hostage, bound together in a boathouse as a heavy snow begins to fall. Confinement is something Adler-Olsen understands well, having grown up in a series of psychiatric hospitals where his father was a doctor. "When I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," he says, "I broke into laughter because it was ridiculous. The reality was so much harsher."
Influences: "I was brought up on the Marx Brothers and, on the other hand, Alfred Hitchcock – I go between those two."
Read: The Marco Effect (out this month) follows the international case of a 15-year-old immigrant trying to build a new life in Denmark – if he can escape family ties to a brutal crime-lord uncle.