The Boy in the Suitcase, Lene Kaaberbøl, Agnete Friis, New York; Soho Crime, 2011, Nina Borg #1

Original language: Danish

boy in suitcaseNina Borg is a Red Cross nurse who has trouble saying no when someone needs help- even at the expense of the people she loves most.  In the first book of a series, Lene Kaaberbøl introduces Borg and hurls her into a situation where she will have to face all of her inadequacies and weaknesses to do what she thinks is the right thing.

The story begins with a call from Karin, an old friend of Nina’s from nursing school, with whom she has fallen out of touch.  Karin, frazzled and visibly scared out of her mind, gives Nina the key to a locker in a Copenhagen train station.  Inside the locker Nina finds a young boy in a suitcase.  He is drugged, naked, and alive- and Karin has disappeared.

Afraid the boy is the victim of child trafficking, Nina does not want to involve the police in case they return him to the parents who sold him or some other kind of abuse.  Nina thus begins a journey to find the boy’s identity while being pursued by a mysterious muscled man and subsequently the police.  She knows that she is putting her career, freedom, and family in jeopardy, but still must unravel the mystery of who the boy is and why he ended up in a suitcase in a train station.

At the same time, Sigita, a Lithuanian mother wakes up in the hospital after being drugged and discovers that her three-year old boy has been taken.  Frantic, Sigita must battle unconvinced police and an inadequate system for tracking children and other victims of human trafficking.

A fast-paced novel that reads easily, the authors succeed in creating suspense and empathy for the characters.  With many translated novels that I have read- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo leaps to mind- it feels like something of the essence of the novel gets lost; the words sound right, but there is something missing…  Perhaps because it is translated by Lene Kaaberbøl, one of the authors, this novel does not feel like a translation.

Taking on both personal and universal issues, this is an interesting read.  From Nina’s struggle between her commitment to her husband and children and her desire to help others to the more general issue of human trafficking, the novel tackles several issues that are relevant in the world today.

This is the first of a two-book series.  I will probably read the second book, but not right away.

Find it on Amazon: The Boy in the Suitcase

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