The Best Department Q Reading Order

Department Q is a hugely popular crime thriller book series that’s unapologetically dark, brutal, and full of shocking twists. This engrossing book series was written by best-selling Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen.

The Best Department Q Reading Order

Jussi Adler-Olsen is a famous crime fiction writer, editor, publisher, and entrepreneur who made his writing debut in 1984. He has currently published 16 books, all achieving reasonable levels of success.

However, it is his Department Q series that has brought him the most success. Selling more than 14 million copies worldwide, winning him countless awards, and seeing him nominated for many more, this series skyrocketed Adler-Olsen’s career.

Adapted into a popular film series too, the Department Q series follows Copenhagen detective Carl Morck, who has been promoted to the cold case department. Throughout the series, he must solve brutal crimes that have so far gone unsolved.

Available to read in 40 different languages, there’s no reason not to read the Department Q series. In this post, I show you the best Department Q reading order.

About Department Q

Department Q is a wonderful book series that features dark crimes, psychological twists, mysteries from the past, and even some quite hilarious humor.

There are 9 books in the series, with each one telling a different story. However, each book in the series focuses on the latest crime detective Carl Morck has to solve.

Set in Copenhagen, this crime thriller series keeps the reader on the edge of their set with the most amazing villains, well-drawn characters, a likable detective, and crimes that even the best crime thriller fans will struggle to crack.

One thing readers will love about the series is how every book introduces a new character. Whether it be a witness to the crime, a victim, or simply someone from Morck’s past, the character development in the series is fantastic.

Some of the most interesting characters include Assad, Gordon, Marcus, and Kimmie. As far as themes are concerned, Department Q mostly features mystery, past trauma, danger, crime, murder, cold cases, friendship, religion, disappearances, and killers.

Department Q Books In Order

The Keeper Of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel (A Department Q Novel)

The first book in Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series is the Keeper of Lost Causes. Published in 2011, this book introduces readers to detective Carl Morck. The readers learn that Morck used to be one of the best homicide detectives in Denmark.

However, after a barrage of bullets ruined the lives of two fellow cops, Morck blames himself. Despite that, Carl finds himself being promoted to Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case department.

Morck has a stack of cold cases to get through. The first one sees him attempt to solve the missing person’s case of a liberal politician who vanished five years prior.


  • This book kicks the series off brilliantly.
  • The character development in this story is excellent.


  • Readers don’t learn much about Assad in this book which is a shame.

The Absent One

The Absent One: A Department Q Novel, Book Cover May Vary

The second book in the series is the Absent One. By now, Carl Morck has settled nicely into Department Q and is ready to take on the next case that comes his way. This time, Morck must solve a brutal double murder of two siblings.

The two-decade-old case isn’t an easy one to solve, with complications creeping up all over the place. For starters, a suspect already sits in prison for the murders, despite all the signs pointing to someone else. Carl must enlist the help of a homeless woman called Kimmie to crack the case’s dark secrets.


  • This mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat.
  • The reader learns more about Carl Morck’s troubled past in the Absent One.


  • Some readers won’t enjoy the animal killings in this book.

A Conspiracy Of Faith

A Conspiracy of Faith: A Department Q Novel

A Conspiracy of Faith sees trouble head the way of Copenhagen’s cold case division. After receiving a blood-stained bottle with a decaying message, Morck must work out if the message is a hoax or really a plea for help from two boys.

If it is real, who are the boys and why were they never reported missing? More importantly, could they still be alive?


  • This book shows how good Adler-Olsen is as a master of suspense.
  • Things get seriously intense in the third installment.


The Purity Of Vengeance

The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel

In the Purity of Vengeance, detective Carl Morck looks into the disappearance of Rita Nelson. The escort agency owner appears to have vanished into thin air. Morck’s investigation quickly reveals that Nelson is just one part of a very complex puzzle.

It soon emerges that Rita’s disappearance is linked to a disturbing pattern that has been hidden for more than 20 years.


  • The interactions between Carl, Rose, and Assad in this book are wonderful.
  • The book’s plot will keep you guessing right until the end.


  • The Purity of Vengeance is also 500 pages long.

The Marco Effect

The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel

The fifth book in Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series is the Marco Effect. In my opinion, this is the most gripping book in the series. It tells the story of a young 15-year-old boy named Marco Jameson.

Shortly after finding a dead body that reveals his uncle’s involvement in criminal activity, Marco runs away. In the hunt for Marco, it turns out it’s not just his family who wants Marco silenced. It’s down to Carl Morck to find the boy first. However, little did he know the case would take him to Africa.


  • The deviation from the typical Carl Morck story is appreciated.
  • The change of scenery in the novel is fun too.


  • Some readers might prefer the more classic Department Q books.

The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl: A Department Q Novel

In the Hanging Girl, detective Carl Morck must lead his team into the troubling case of a much-loved and vibrant 17-year-old girl, who was sadly found hanging from a tree.

A hard-hitting case, the Hanging Girl story will hit you hard and more than likely leave you reaching for the Kleenex tissues. The investigation takes Carl’s team to a remote island where he finds a hidden cult and a new string of murders.


  • This is one of the hardest-hitting novels in the series.
  • Once again, readers are taken away to a new location.


  • The Hanging Girl isn’t as exciting for readers that prefer more violence and brutality in a crime thriller.

The Scarred Woman

The Scarred Woman (A Department Q Novel)

It is in the Scarred Woman that famed detective Carl Morck and his team face their toughest challenge yet. This time, things happen much closer to home when Rose’s troubled and seriously dark past collides with a grizzly unsolved murder case.

It is down to Carl, Gordon, and Assad to uncover Rose’s violent truth before they run out of time.


  • As far as dark crime thrillers go, this is one of the best.
  • Learning more about Rose’s dark past is a great read.


  • Working out who the scarred woman is isn’t easy.

Victim 2117

Victim 2117: A Department Q Novel

The penultimate book in the Department Q series is Victim 2117. Published in 2011, this book features a complex, dark, twisted, and thought-provoking story that puts Copenhagen’s cold case department in danger.

Things take a dark turn when the body of a refugee in the Mediterranean Sea is found. Referred to in the news as Victim 2117, the death sets off a chain of serious events in Department Q.


  • Victim 2117 is a surprisingly thought-provoking book.
  • This book tells a very real story.


  • The storyline in Victim 2117 is a little predictable.

The Shadow Murders

The Shadow Murders: A Department Q Novel

The final book in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series is the Shadow Murders. This is the first book in the series that follows a fresh case. A confused Carl Morck can’t understand why the suicide of a 60-year-old woman that was celebrating her birthday has landed on his desk.

However, Morck’s superior is convinced the case is not a suicide. Instead, he believes the tragedy is linked to an unsolved murder that’s been plaguing the city since 1988.


  • This is the first book that features a modern-day case.
  • The reader gets to learn more about Marcus Jacobsen in this book.


  • This is sadly the last novel in the Department Q series.

Final Thoughts

This post has shown you the best order to read Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series. As you can see from the order, the best way to read the series is in publication order. Whilst you could attempt to read the book out of publication order, it wouldn’t make sense to.

The series gradually tells readers more about each character so you’ll want to read the series in order if you want to know everything that’s going on at the right time. Now you have the reading order for Department Q, I recommend picking out the first book so you can start enjoying the series.

After you’ve read the whole series, you can sit back and enjoy the film series too. Department Q has a lot to offer so don’t be the one that misses out!

Frequently Asked Questions

Will There Be More Department Q Books?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though there are any plans for another Department Q book.

Will There Be Another Department Q Film?

Yes, there will be another Department Q film at some point. In fact, it is reported that a grand total of 6 Department Q films will be produced.

Does Jussi Adler-Olsen Still Write?

Yes, Jussi Adler-Olsen still writes books. He has currently published 16.

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Noah Burton