“Sinners were far more interesting people – it even said so in the Bible.”
Synopsis: 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.
I bought this book from BookBub because, well, it was cheap and the title compelling. Written by Danish fantasy author Lene Kaaberbol and Danish children’s book author Agnete Friis, The Boy in the Suitcase is the first installment in a series of books following Nina Borg. This book is from a genre that I have not once read or even heard of but which has apparently been gaining popularity over the past few years – Scandinavian noir or Nordic noir. Originally in Danish, The Boy in the Suitcase is translated to English (obviously, since … you know … I don’t speak Danish). However, the translations seem a bit rough in a few areas.
Overall, I give this book a 2.4 out of 5 rating at best. Though I like the mystery, suspense, and ending, the main character – Nina “Bored Me to Tears” Borg – was below average. Honestly, I like her less than I like brooding, self-centered, self-pitying Order of the Phoenix Harry. For every strong and maternal moment in which Nina battles evil there is a moment where you want to smack her across the back of the head for her cluelessness. Perhaps some of my frustration comes from a lack of understanding in regards to the Eastern European government. Many times I could not understand why Nina would not just go to the police, who were right in her kitchen at one time, and ask for help. Perhaps that could have saved her a lot of trouble and a battered head. But then again, that would also cost the writers a sequel. At times, Nina is so worried about saving the world that she neglects her own husband and children. And while I sympathize with Nina and understand that she is so afraid her own children will someday face the evil out there, my frustration at her familial neglect far outweighs my sympathy.
There are a lot of political issues fleshed out in The Boy in the Suitcase, issues of government and their lax handling of human trafficking – issues that American readers will not fully comprehend. However, the story of good versus evil is a universal concern engaged and even resolved in this book. I enjoy that though it is very clear who the “hero” is, AKA Mrs. Dense-and-too-stubborn-to-call-the-police-because-she-thinks-she-alone-can-save-the-world, you are left wondering if the “villains” are truly evil. Instead of the black and white ethics of our childhood, we are left with antagonists doing whatever they think is necessary to guarantee them a life of love and happiness. I personally love when books make you think about these issues, reimagining the textbook villains out to ruin the world for the sake of revenge. Although I do not find myself rooting for or siding with the antagonist of The Boy in the Suitcase, I do feel a level of sympathy for their predicaments and the ways in which they felt trapped by their current lives.
In short, I
cannot in good conscience hesitate to recommend this book to a friend. Nina Borg is THAT insufferable to me. The suspense, the mystery, the ending, the issues are all good; but I rolled my eyes and said “Bless your heart” too many times to count as Nurse Nina never got anything through her thick skull. However, if you want to give it a go, I won’t stop you. And though The Boy in the Suitcase ends by leaving you teetering on the edge of your seat with the promise of a sequel, I will not be joining Nina in her future adventures.
What about you – have you ever read a book where you didn’t like the main character? Did it ruin the entire reading experience for you?