Cover image of "The Boy in the Suitcase," a novel that reveals something's rotten in denmark

I’ve been wondering something about all this Nordic crime fiction that keeps creeping onto bestseller lists around the world. Since Scandinavia has one of the lowest rates of crime of anywhere in the world, do all those murder mysteries and thrillers from the region tell more stories about crime than there are actual crimes in those five little countries? After all, we’re talking about Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Iceland, with an aggregate population of 27 million people, which is roughly the same as that of Tokyo. Whatever the case, this captivating Nordic Noir novel reveals that something’s rotten in Denmark.

Outstanding crime fiction from Scandinavia

Whatever the answer to my question might be, there’s no denying the reality that Scandinavia has been producing some of the most outstanding crime fiction written in recent decades. For starters, think of Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallander), Jo Nesbø (Harry Hole), Stieg Larsson (Lisbet Salander and Mikael Blomkvist), Peter Høeg (Smilla Jaspersen), Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Martin Beck), Camilla Läckberg (Patrick Hedström and Erica Falck), and Jussi Adler-Olsen (Carl Mørck). I’ve read and enjoyed many of the books by these outstanding writers, in several cases all of them. Now I have an addition to the list: Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, the gifted co-creators of the engrossing Nina Borg series.

The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg #1) by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis (2011) 321 pages ★★★★★

Murder and mayhem in Denmark

Nina Borg is a troubled young woman who flees from her husband and children from time to time to work as a nurse in refugee camps for the Danish Red Cross. Here are the authors describing Nina: “She was always busy telling herself that she was the only one who didn’t fit in, while everyone else was one big happy community. And she was also an expert at making herself believe that she was the only one who could save the world and put things right, while others were too busy buying flat-screen televisions and redecorating their kitchens and making bistro coffee and being happy.”

All of which is to say that, when Nina receives a panicked call from an old friend to pick up a package from a locker at the train station in Copenhagen, it’s no surprise that, however reluctantly, she agrees to do it. The trouble starts there, of course. She discovers a three-year-old boy drugged and crammed into a suitcase in the locker. When at length he becomes conscious, the boy speaks an unfamiliar language. Nina’s effort to identify the language and discover his identity takes her on a perilous flight through the city and into the suburbs. The ensuing tale is fraught with danger for Nina and suspenseful to the end. The Boy in the Suitcase is an outstanding example of Nordic Noir — and it’s just the first of four novels in the series.

About the authors

Lene Kaaberbøl writes both children’s fantasy and adult crime fiction. She is the author of 19 novels to date. Three of those books feature Nina Borg in a series she co-authors with Agnete Friis, who also works as a journalist. Both are Danish.

For more great reading

For links to my reviews of another Danish crime series, go to Jussi-Adler Olsen’s Department Q thrillers.

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