Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis (hardcover, $24)

Yes, this book is about a boy in a suitcase.

Denmark has entered the race for the next golden book to come out of Scandinavia. There's not a dysfunctional detective in sight in this thriller. Rather, our heroine is a dysfunctional nurse. She wants to save the world -- the reason becomes a little clearer as the book progresses -- and fate gives her the opportunity to include one little boy stuffed in a suitcase.

As is so prevalent these days, the book begins with several storylines which, we hope, will eventually untangle into one story. Sigita, a young mother in Lithuania, awakens in a hospital with a broken arm. She is told that she was massively drunk and fell down the stairs, and her little boy is with her ex-husband. But, wait! Sigita is a sober, responsible person and her son is not with her ex-husband. Back in Copenhagen, Nina Borg, the dysfunctional nurse, is currently working in a Red Cross center with illegal immigrants. She gets a desperate call from an old friend, who eventually asks Nina to retrieve a suitcase from a locker.

So we assume that the boy Nina finds in the suitcase in Copenhagen  is probably the little boy Sigita is missing in Lithuania. But why is he in Denmark? Nina does not call the police for help. It was hard to swallow her reasoning. (The boy is an illegal immigrant and he might be put into "the system" and never heard from again.) Nevertheless, she soldiers on and tries to find out the child's identity herself. Beginning with her friend Karin, the woman who sent her on the quest, seems like the best place to start. It puts the problem at a different level when Nina finds Karin murdered.

Sigita is having her own problem in getting people to believe that her son is really missing. It's her background story that is the most touching and interesting in the book.

In order to enjoy the book and find the ending clever, you must accept that one of the characters is capable of extreme heartlessness. However, if you've accepted that it was okay that Nina didn't call the police, then, hey, you'll have no problem with this. In the end, I did find the book enjoyable and the ending clever. A big part of why I found the book readable was the competent translation. The story was smooth without awkward phrasing. So here's to one of the authors who translated her own story, Lene Kaaberbøl.

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