Lene Kaaberbøl is a wildly popular fantasy author whose youth series The W.I.T.C.H. Adventures and The Shamer Chronicles have sold in the millions. Agnete Friis is a critically-acclaimed children’s author as well. As collaborators they have created a long-running, bestselling and award-winning series of mystery novels involving a Danish Red Cross nurse named Nina Borg. THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE, only now being published in the United States, is the first of these, a haunting work that tantalizes, teases, and begs to be read in one sitting.
"THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is a quietly dark tale of desire and influence gone wrong, tender in some spots and horrific in others."
Borg is an interesting choice for a protagonist, at least in this first volume. She is consumed by a nervous energy that feeds and is fed by her work among the immigrant refugee population in Denmark, a thankless and perhaps pointless job on a number of levels. Her obsession with her work causes her no end of difficulties, not only with her home life --- her husband and children are loved yet, as even she will admit, sorely neglected --- but also with her physical state.
So it is that, when an old friend appeals to her sense of mission to make a mysterious retrieval from a train station locker, Borg is compelled to agree, even as her common sense urges a contrary response. The locker in question contains a suitcase, and in it is a boy of pre-school age. A language barrier prohibits Borg from communicating with him; all she is able to discern is that an extremely angry and violent man is attempting to retrieve the child as well. Borg thus goes on the run, avoiding this man, the authorities and her family, each and all for different reasons.
Meanwhile, the mother of the child searches frantically for him, tracing her past actions slowly backward in time, looking for a reason as to why someone might wish to abduct him. At the same time, an enigmatic man waits and worries as the set of circumstances that he put in motion with the best, and most selfish, of intentions slowly collapse around him.
Storylines slowly and exquisitely intersect here, each with their own mystery that gradually interlock with the others until the horrific intentions of the primary players involved become all too clear. Borg only wants for the child to be reunited with his mother, a goal that seems almost impossible until she encounters a most unexpected ally in a violent but satisfying climax.
THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is a quietly dark tale of desire and influence gone wrong, tender in some spots and horrific in others. At its core, however, is a keen and wonderfully devised mystery that will prick the curiosity of any reader with even the most tangential of interests in the whodunit genre. Kaaberbøl and Friis have constructed a seamless narrative that is a far cry from their other (and at least for now) better known literary efforts, but is every bit as riveting and entertaining. Hopefully we will see more more of the troubled Nurse Borg sooner rather than later as future volumes in the series appear in the U.S.