The Exception

An internationally bestselling thriller, The Exception dissects the nature of evil and the paranoia that drives ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts.

Four women work together for a small Copenhagen nonprofit that disseminates information on genocide. When two of them receive death threats, they immediately believe they’re being stalked by a Serbian war criminal whom they recently wrote about. Yet as tensions mount among the women, their suspicions turn away from him and toward each other.

The office becomes a battlefield in which each of the women’s moves is suspect. Tracking down the killer escalates into a witch hunt as the women resort to bullying and victimization. The Exception dissects the nature of evil and the paranoia that drives ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts.

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The Exception is excellent on so many things: the texture of office life, the appalling inconsistencies and lacunas in our perceptions of our own characters, the way intelligent people use the insights of psychology not to deepen their self-awareness but to calumniate one another with more sophisticated accusations. But most of all, one comes away feeling there is a hugely empathetic imagination behind this novel, one that resists allowing us to fall into the simplifying judgments that are a necessary prelude to cruelty. Its characters seem deeply true to life in that they are not unitary, but a web of fluctuating motivations that combine good intentions, self-deception, generosity, selfishness and malice.
The New York Times, USA


  • Good will »
    Interview by Klaus Wivel, October 2004, © Alt for Damerne. Translated by Tiina Nunally.
  • He sees through women »
    Interview by Birgitte Bartholdy, October 2004, © Alt for Damerne. Translated by Tiina Nunally.

The Exception around the world »

More Reviews

A selection of reviews from around the world.


Plenty of books promise to change their readers’ lives. Few succeed. Christian Jungersen’s The Exception is truly an exception. Read it and you will never look at your work colleagues in quite the same way again.

The Economist, United Kingdom


It is all of the finest literary quality, well crafted through and through…. Scary in a thrillingly realistic way and quite frankly clever. More than a few well-educated women will find their souls laid bare – yours truly included. This is certainly a man who has a full grasp of the female psyche.

Phew! – you’re left shaking.

Børsen, Denmark


WOW! I haven’t read anything as thrilling as this award-winning Danish bestseller since The Da Vinci Code…. This is a psychological thriller with multiple layers.

Tara, Sweden


Danish author Christian Jungersen’s sizable novel The Exception has been a noteworthy international bestseller. One reason for this lies in the way Jungersen is able to effortlessly combine different modes of writing, combining the themes of so-called serious literature with entertaining narrative, intertwining the suspenseful elements of the thriller with psychological analysis – without damaging the overall effect of what is a novel to be reckoned with.

… While many novels, especially light fiction, tend to simply demonize evil, Jungersen’s novel does the opposite. The roots of evil are sought in the historical situation, as well as in group and individual egoism, the authoritarian models of blindly following the rules. Jungersen’s novel relates all of this with startling directness and gravity, yet without compromising the specific elements of the psychological thriller.

Uutispäivä Demari, Finland

Christian Jungersen describes with incredible precision and empathy what harassment does to the victim; how spirit, soul, and body are damaged by it; and how hard it is to free oneself from the role of victim. Yet Jungersen takes on not only the role of the victim, but also that of the perpetrator. He alternates the narrative from the point of view of Iben, Malene, Anne-Lise, and Camilla, and with each shift in perspective the reader is forced to revise his opinion of what has happened. These shifts in perspective are absolutely convincing. After each chapter one thinks like the current protagonist and suspects the other three. It is shocking to see how quickly one begins to suspect the worst of everything and everyone. Using this modern version of the unreliable narrator, Jungersen manages to involve the reader both intellectually and emotionally. This makes the book so gripping and suspenseful that it’s impossible to put it down until the very last page.

… One thing is sure: The Exception deserves all the prizes it has won and many more!

Kontexte, Germany


Jungersen, in the five hundred pages of his (…) unfailingly compelling book, turns his office of choice into a discomfiting reflection of the world just outside its doors. … [The author] manages to inhabit the lives of these sensitive, neurotic, frightened, jealous, and sometimes vicious women, and he does so until the very last twist on the very last pages. This icy and affecting novel, with its juxtaposition of people trying to do good and yet behaving very badly toward each other, can certainly be read in many ways, but always with the vague unease that the privileged residents of Western liberal democracies feel about their comfortable lives.

The New Yorker, USA


A whirlwind philosophic drama, with all the trimmings of threats and murder and a plot so tight, you have to go all the way to the final page before the last piece falls into place – and an entire worldview shatters…. The Exception is written with a scalpel. All linguistic ornament has been pared away. Christian Jungersen has kept an eye on John le Carré’s way of twisting a plot and consciously kept his style stripped down and exact.

Weekendavisen, Denmark

See also:
You Disappear »
Undergrowth »