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Review: ‘The Boy in the Suitcase’

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Updated: January 5, 2012 8:00AM



Nina Borg is a devoted employee of the Red Cross, compulsively throwing herself into rescue missions without much thought for her own safety. Her dedication is the reason she doesn’t hesitate when a distraught friend asks her for help and hands her the key to a locker in the Copenhagen train station.

The last thing Nina expects to find in the locker is a small boy, stripped naked, heavily drugged and stuffed in a suitcase — but still alive. Hours later, Nina’s friend is found brutally murdered.

Other, ostensibly disconnected characters enter the picture in Lene Kaaberbol and Agnet Friis’ The Boy in the Suitcase (Soho Crime, $24): Jan, an upper-middle class family man successful in every way but the one that matters to him; thickly muscled Jucas, hired for shady and violent business; Sigita, a nervous single mother in Lithuania. The threads that bind some of these characters to each other will be clear to some readers; others will take time to develop. Stick with it. The multiple perspectives and jumpy narrative will come together and pay off richly.

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. Kaaberbol and Friis know when to reveal and when to pull back, presenting just enough backstory about Sigita’s upbringing and marriage, just enough about Nina’s relationship with her family and friends, without ever interrupting the action.

The disparate perspectives do as much to humanize all the action as they do to disorient — and I mean that in the best possible sense. Thrillers like this are best if the readers never quite feel themselves on solid ground.

This is the first installment of the Nina Borg mystery series, first published in Denmark in 2008. The series is set to hit American markets this week. Fans of crime fiction and suspense will want to nab it. I just want to know when the next book is set for release.

AP



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