In 1980, he embarked on the compilation of Denmark's first cartoon encyclopedia, Komiklex, which he completed in 1985. He went on to write two books about Groucho Marx (1984–1985). Then he was an independent publisher 1983-1989 as owner, publisher and editor-in-chief publishing a range of non fiction and fiction titles. In 1989, he published Fred på tryk, the only widely quoted Danish bibliography on literature dealing with peace and security.
His first successful novel, Alfabethuset (The Alphabet House), followed in 1997. It tells the story of two British pilots on a secret mission who are shot down in Germany during World War II. It was followed in 2002 by Firmaknuseren/Og hun takkede guderne (The Company Basher), a thriller set in The Netherlands and in Indonesia in which a Dutch specialist in destroying large corporations is threatened to bring down an oil company.
In 2006, Washington Dekretet (The Washington Decree) begins with the assassination of the American President's wife on the very eve of an American presidential election. Following that the country is turned into disastrous events.
His first novels in the crime-thriller series about Department Q include: Kvinden i buret (The Woman in the Cage, UK title: Mercy, US title The Keeper of Lost Causes) published in 2007 Fasandræberne (The Pheasant Killers, UK title: Disgrace, US title The Absent One) published in 2008. Flaskepost fra P (Message in a Bottle, UK title: Redemption, US title A Conspiracy of Faith) published in 2009 Journal 64 published in 2010 Marco Effekten (The Marco Effect) published in 2012
All are set in Denmark where they enhanced his popularity, appearing at the top of bestseller lists.
Adler-Olsen's novels have been sold in 35 languages including China, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US. In Germany he has enjoyed particular success, becoming 2012's most popular author (German authors included) with five titles on Amazon DE's top 10 list over crime novels sold in 2012. Adler-Olsen's books have been on the bestseller lists in numerous other countries including Austria, Iceland, Norway not to mention The New York Times Paperback bestseller list.
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