29 March 2012

Review: THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

  • File Size: 831 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (November 8, 2011)
  • Translated from Danish
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

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.

Read more by clicking on the Amazon link - too much of the story was revealed for my liking.

My take

From the start THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is full of puzzles. In the Kindle edition that I read there was a sort of unannounced foreword which describes how Nina is manhandling a large suitcase from somewhere to where her car is parked, and her discovery of the boy inside the suitcase when she opens it. This passage is not repeated in the text of the book and I presume it serves the function of the "hook". There is a later related passage but the content of these few pages is not repeated. You can read this passage for yourself if you click on the book cover above and explore the extract on Amazon.

In the opening pages of the main part of the book the reader is introduced to a range of characters who seem to be unconnected, and gradually we piece together what seems to have happened. While we are pretty sure we know the identity of the boy, there is still the question of why he was taken, and how the situation will be resolved.

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE focusses on two women of great strength: Nina Borg, Danish Red Cross nurse and compulsive do-gooder, and the Lithuanian mother whose 3 year old boy goes missing and who undertakes her own investigation into his disappearance. And there are the men almost without principles: the man who is commissioned to snatch the boy, and the one who pays for it to be done. We see the story from a number of points of view.

For me piecing together the elements of this puzzle became almost compulsive too. A great story, well written, plenty of clues, a few red herrings, and some issues to think about.There are several possible reasons for why the boy has been snatched and a small tidbit of information dropped casually about half way through the book pointed me down the right path. However that did not detract from my enjoyment as I had to stay on board to see if I was right.

My rating: 4.8

Other reviews to read:

About the authors (from Amazon)

Lene Kaaberbøl was born in Copenhagen in 1960 was 15 when her first two books were published, and since then she has written more than thirty novels and children's books. She has won several national and international awards for her fiction, and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. At her recent nomination for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the IBBY Committee wrote: "She is incredibly skilled at constructing universes and shows remarkable loyalty to her stories and her characters. Lene Kaaberbøl's writing captivates the reader; her worlds draw you in, move you, make you laugh and cry and give you ample food for thought. And it is our assessment that her works have not just national and international potential, but the potential to become classics."

While fantasy is her preferred genre when writing for children and YA, there is nothing remotely fairytale-like about her crime novels for adults. The Boy in the Suitcase, written in collaboration with Agnete Friis, was called a "first rate thriller" by Michelle Wiener of Associated Press: "Written in that sparse, uniquely Scandinavian style sure to draw comparisons with a certain blockbuster trilogy (this is better), this story packs plenty of emotional suspense and interpersonal friction without veering into melodrama."


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for the great review :-). This one has been on my TBR for far too long. My turn at the library is coming up soon, though... :-).

Maxine Clarke said...

Nice review, Kerrie. I can't remember if that "hook" chapter was in the printed edition I read, or not (I have passed the book on, so can't check).
I liked this book but perhaps not so much as you - I don't like "child kidnap" themes in general, and I found it hard to become involved in the character of Nina. There is a bit of cod psychology right at the end that is supposed to explain her personality but I found that rather childishly simple. For me, the best part of it was the character of the mother who had lost her child. That whole theme was handled excellently, I thought, and bought the book to life.

kathy d. said...

I agree with your review and rating. I could not put this book down and read it into the wee hours. It was exciting.

I liked both Nina Borg and the Lithuanian mother. Borg is complicated, not unlike many people. She is a principled aid worker internationally but has problems coping at home. But she does all she can to save this child and puts her life in danger.

I found the violence at the end a little out of sync with the rest of the book and think the resolution could have come without that much brutality.

However, I liked the book very much. If the plot had veered off into a larger issue involving children, I could not have read it. That issue was hinted at and I nearly closed the book. However, I was glad I kept reading.

I have the book and am lending it out, but not to women friends who are mothers or grandmothers of little boys. I think they'd have a hard time.

But others who read this really liked it, and we all eagerly await the next book.

Susan said...

I've been waiting for this to come out in paperback here so I can pick it up. This does sound very good. Excellent review, Kerrie!


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