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by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Translated from the Danish by Lene Kaaberbøl
Reviewed by Caitlin Fehir

I'm always willing to give a book a try, even in a genre that I never read. So when The Boy in the Suitcase, a thriller by Danish authors Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, landed in my mailbox, I thought, why not? A few hours later, after swiftly consuming this rollercoaster of a story, I was no more of a thriller fan than I was when I started, but I was definitely entertained.

Kaaberbøl and Friis' protagonist, Nina Borg, is a Red Cross nurse who rushes headlong into tough situations, determined to do things on her own. One of her many flaws is that she is rather averse to asking for help, and she has a tendency to disappear for days on quests to solve the world's problems—much to the annoyance of her husband, who is constantly worried about his wife's actions. When Nina's friend asks her to pick up a suitcase from a storage locker, Nina opens it and finds a little boy inside, drugged and asleep. A scary altercation in the locker area sends Nina and the suitcase running, not to the police, but on a dangerous mission to save the boy. Complicating the matter is the fact that the boy speaks a language Nina does not understand, and so cannot tell her how he wound up in such a horrible situation.

Alongside Nina's mission to return the boy to his family are the stories of several other characters: Jan, an architect with a secret; Sigita, a mother searching for her kidnapped son; Jucas, a dangerous man working one last job; and Barbara, Jucas' girlfriend, who is roped into helping the man she loves. Kaaberbøl and Friis shift the narrative between their characters; this structure, which is initially jarring in its rapid movement from story to story, becomes clear as the threads of the plot are sewn together. The conclusion of the novel is quick and a bit far-fetched, but the suspense never dies, and the surprising twists kept me on my toes.

Nina, the protagonist in what seems to be the first in a thriller series, was not the character I cared about the most. Sigita, mother of the little boy, was far more interesting and fully-developed. Her determination to find her son, and her own internal struggles, gave heart to the novel. If Sigita was the star of this series, I would definitely keep reading. Nina, with her ridiculous "save the world" complex, remained a bit of an unknown—Kaaberbøl and Friis hint that there are skeletons in Nina's closet, but this backstory was not fully realized. Hopefully further installments in the series will flesh out her character, and explain her illogical way of thinking.

So, while I remain ambivalent towards the thriller genre, I can't say that I was sorry to spend a few hours with The Boy in the Suitcase. The shifting narratives and the suspenseful plot make this novel worth reading, and fans of thrillers may find a new series to follow.

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