Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

The blurb:
Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can't say no when someone asks for help--even when she knows better.  When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet.  Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.

Is the boy a victim of child trafficking?  Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him?  When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy's are in jeoopardy, too.  In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.

While Scandinavian mysteries have been popular for some time now,  The Boy in the Suitcase stands out because of the female lead, Nina Borg.  A "do-gooder" who can't say no even when she knows better captures her exactly.  She's cares quickly and a little too much but fortunately she also has investigative skills to support her good Samaritan actions.

The other characters fall closer to the type.  Kaaerbol and Friis deliver clear, crisp language and a well crafted story.  Through descriptions and actions we understand the emotions, activity, and danger that seems to chase after several seemingly unrelated characters.

The boy's mother realizes his disappearance but is baffled by the absence of any kidnapper's note. As she tries to figure out who might have taken her son,  we read about how Nina's errand turns into a nightmare of sorts.  Nina agrees to pick up a suitcase for an acquaintance and is horrified to find a naked and live three-year-old. 

Nina must juggle her professional and familial obligations while trying to help this young boy.  The boy doesn't communicate and doesn't seem to understand Danish.  Instead of bringing the child to the police, she finds herself feeding him, clothing him, bathing him and trying to track down who may have left the boy inside a suitcase.   She finds an unlikely ally and determines that the boy's family might still be alive.  As Nina tries to learn more about the boy and to keep him safe, a ruthless mercenary is angry and is on the hunt for the boy and his ransom. 

Carefully crafted, suspenseful, and with all sorts of unexpected twists, The Boy in the Suitcase is a gripping and memorable read.   If you enjoy detective novels with complex characters set in unusual locations, you'll enjoy The Boy in the Suitcase.  It has the unusual advantage of advocating for the rights of women and children - without ever seeming heavyhanded or at all preachy.  Just through  the subtle selection of the crimes in the novel, Kaaberbol and Friis make us more aware of the particular vulnerabilities of poor children and women.

ISBN-10: 156947981X  Hardcover $24
Publisher: Soho Crime (November 8, 2011), 313 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Authors:
Lene Kaaberbol has sold more than 2 million books worldwide as a fantasy writer.  Her collaborator, Agnete Friis, is a children's writer.  Their bestselling Nina Borg series has been translated into nine languages.

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