The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

by Peter

The Boy in the Suitcase, Kaaberbol and FriisThe Boy in the Suitcase is a new, wonderful addition to the already quite large Scandinavian crime fiction literature in translation. For a long time, writers from Sweden, Norway and Iceland dominated international Scandinavian crime fiction, but now several new and very interesting Danish writers are being published internationally as well. Earlier this year, the first book in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series about Department Q and the peculiar and quite intuitive detective Carl Morck was published both in the UK and the US. And now we get the first installment in Kaaberbøl and Friis’ excellent series of their Nina Borg Mysteries.

The very intriguing mystery in The Boy in the Suitcase revolves around the finding of a small boy in a luggage locker in Copenhagen Central Station. Inside a suitcase. Neatly folded. For that is how you go about smuggling a 3 year old boy into Denmark: You fold him neatly and put him in a suitcase?!

Nina Borg, a nurse working with immigrants in Denmark for the Danish Red Cross, is the person who makes the shocking discovery. She was asked by her friend Karen to retrieve the suitcase. Nina is utterly stunned. Who is the little boy? Why was he left there? Where is he from? What language does he speak? And what now? What should she do?

The plot has several threads that are interwoven, and the authors move from one thread to the next sequentially. The main threads involve the well-to-do Danish architect who has purchased a “good”; a shady Eastern European gangster who has sold the “good”; a Lithuanian single mother named Sigita who doesn’t drink, but nevertheless has somehow become so intoxicated that she almost lost her life and who is now living through the nightmare of having lost what some others consider a “good”; and the energetic and at times quite single-minded Nina Borg who is now in possession of what for some is the “good” but for her is a problem and something she feels compassion for.

The Boy in the Suitcase tells an ugly tale about the buying and selling of human beings and the disgusting realities of this kind of trade. The authors do not describe this market in the abstract, but instead give it a human face: the faces of the neatly folded little boy named Mikas and his mother Sigita, the face of the rich Dane who wants to buy a better life and marital bliss, the face of the gangster who is a businessman and just wants to make a little money, and others.

It is a very strong story. And in the midst of it is Nina, who, after retrieving the suitcase, has a hard time getting in touch with her friend Karin. And then Karin is brutally murdered by hard men searching for the “good” that was lost; the “good” which to them means a fortune and is a means to realize dreams. Now Nina realizes that her life too is in danger and that someone is after her and the boy. As the pursuers get closer and closer, she tries to find out who the boy is and how to best deal with the horrible situation.

The Boy in the Suitcase is an exceptional crime fiction debut that shines a light on a tragic and real social issue. It manages to address this problem with a seriousness and social conscience that add significant weight to the story. It is an engaging, suspenseful, and excellently written crime fiction novel with complex and well-drawn characters which has been a bestseller throughout Scandinavia. The Boy in the Suitcase is definitely worth a read!

Reviews of The Boy in the Suitcase:

“Stunning. Hooked me from the beginning. The Danish bourgeoisie and the criminal underworld collide in a moving, fast-paced thriller with psychological depth.”—Cara Black, bestselling author of Murder in the Marais

“Among the best crime novels of the year…. marks Kaaberbol and Friis as serious talents to be reckoned with, ready to be discovered by an American audience.”—Publishers Marketplace

“This is a thrilling and most urgent novel reflecting a terrifying reality.”—Maj Sjowall, bestselling co-author of the Martin Beck series

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