The Nina Borg series, written by Danish duo Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, consists of three novels so far. Of the series, I have read only the first two, although I plan to finish the series at some point, as well as explore the authors’ other works.
What caught my attention were the breathtaking intensity and multi-layered complexity of the plot. Where some series really excel in personality, others in place, this series hits the jackpot when it comes to suspense. It is rare that I find myself white-knuckling my paperbacks, but in the case of this series, I found myself bracing for impact, hands and feet physically clenched as I rapidly raced towards the denoument.
Of the two I read, The Boy in the Suitcase was my definite favorite. I finished the novel in record time because I simply could not put it down. Female protagonist Nina Borg, although refreshingly….female, still played into the typical “James Bond trope.” She’s tortured, she’s isolated, her family and love life are less than ideal. Nothing new there. And yet, the plots are unexpectedly complex in these well-wrought thrillers.
From start to finish, Kaaberbol and Friis grab your attention and don’t let go. If you need a break from the police procedural and want to see your protagonists knee deep in the danger and the action, then this series should be on your list!
However, if you are more culturally inclined and looking for insight into Danish culture and daily life in addition to great personalities and plots, I’d recommend Danish author Jussi Adler Olsen’s Department Q series. In Kaaberbol and Friis’s work, place is subsumed by the plot’s harried pace. There is simply no time to soak in the details of Danish life. Buckle your seatbelt for a fast and furious ride.
For originality (in this case, I am scoring for plot complexity in addition to originality): 4.5 out of 5 / For personality: 4 out of 5 / For place: 3.5 out of 5
Total score: 4 out of 5
From the Back of the Book
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. Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy’s are in jeopardy too. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.
Nina. Natasha. Olga. Three women united by one terrifying secret. But only one of them has killed to keep it. Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been convicted for the attempted murder of her Danish ex-fiancé, escapes police custody on her way to an interrogation in Copenhagen’s police headquarters. That same night, the ex-fiancé’s frozen, tortured body is found in a car. It isn’t the first time the young Ukrainian woman has lost a partner to violent ends: her first husband was murdered three years earlier in Kiev in the same manner. Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has followed Natasha’s case for years now, ever since Natasha first took refuge at her crisis center. Nina just can’t see the young mother as a vicious killer. But in her effort to protect Natasha’s daughter and discover the truth, Nina realizes there is much she didn’t know about Natasha and her past. The mystery has long and bloody roots, going back to a terrible famine that devastated Stalinist Ukraine in 1934, when a ten-year-old girl with the voice of a nightingale sang her family into shallow graves.
In an attempt to save their marriage, Nina Borg and her husband traveled to a beach resort in the Philippines for a dream vacation. Only now, six months later, does Nina begin to understand the devastating repercussions of that trip—repercussions that have followed her home across the globe to Denmark. On an icy winter day, she is attacked outside the grocery store. The last thing she hears before losing consciousness is her assailant asking her forgiveness. Only later does she understand that this isn’t for what he’s just done, but for what he plans to do to. As Nina tries to trace the origin of sinister messages she’s received, she realizes the attempt on her life must be linked to events in Manila, and to three young men whose dangerous friendship started in medical school. Time and circumstance have forced them to make impossible choices that have cost human lives. It’s a long way from Viborg to Manila, and yet Nina and her pursuer face the same dilemma: How far will they go to save themselves?
Related Reviews & Additional Material
Latest Nina Borg Mystery Grips Despite its Contrived Plot by The Independent
‘The Boy in the Suitcase’ by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis by The Washington Post