Book Reviews, CBR- Manhattan, Misc

Book Review: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis

***This book was reviewed for my own enjoyment

The Boy in the Suitcase is yet another example of why I’ve come to love Scandinavian/Nordic/Icelandic translated books. There’s something about the cultures, as reflected in writing, that speaks to me. This mystery/thriller is the first of the Nina Borg Series by Kaaberbol and Friis.

Told through the various lens’ of the main players, we follow a sordid tale of child-trafficking and murder. Nina Borg, responding to a request for assistance from a friend, goes to retrieve a package from a train depot. Only it’s not goods she finds, but the limp, naked body of a drugged three-year old. A brush with a terrifying man assaulting the child’s former resting place sends Nina into headlong flight in an effort to get the child to safety, and find where he came from. Fearing the child will be dumped in an orphanage, Nina doesn’t call the police, but tracks down the information herself. Her trails take her from a clandestine doctor’s office, to the red-light district in search of someone who can speak the lad’s language, and on to the posh home of Jan and Anne Marquat.

Alternating with Nina’s tale, we get Sigita’s point of view, as the young Lithuanian mother desperately tries to find her missing son Mikas. Through luck and hard work, Sigita tracks him down in Denmark. All the while, two other players are vying for possession of the child, one unafraid to murder in pursuit of his agenda, the other desperate to save a loved one.

It’s always refreshing to see a book where the females do not need to rely on males to get things done. Both Nina and Sigita take matters into their own hands. Indeed, Guzas, the detective, didn’t even believe Sigita at first, and Mikas’ father… don’t get me started. What an ass. Yet, both of these leading ladies are possessed of utterly human shortcomings. They seem weak, almost passive at first, though they prove far from it. They respond not with balls and sass, like so many female protagonists that need to come across as male. No, they are feminine, responding as mothers, as caregivers, as nurturers. And boy do they get the job done! In protecting Mikas, each becomes a veritable lioness.

I just cannot even imagine Sigita’s terror and despair at having her son stolen. It’s terrifying to think that any kind of human trafficking still takes place, but I’m not surprised. Both Nina and Sigita have suffered pretty harsh patches in life, shaping the women we meet. I greatly empathise with the part of Nina that is a strong empath. The part that gets abraded by life’s injustices, and feels driven and even obligated to personally help everyone she comes across in need. I found I also empathised with Jan and the reasons for his actions. Love drove desperate action.

As mentioned previously, this book is translated. Nina and Sigita’s behaviour suggests to me the culture probably values the quiet heroes, the everyday people, quiet courage over badassery. Pragmatism is valued, and reflected in how Nina handled things. She did what needed doing. No questions. No waffling. It also suggests value on a fierce social conscience. Pragmatism is reflected in the writing style too. There is detail, action, movement, but never in overabundance. This cultural milieu seems to favour avoiding the superficial, and valuing a Stoic nature. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series, to see how Nina grows (and if her family stays together).


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