Saturday, March 17, 2012

Scandinavian Thrills and Chills

Another review on a title courtesy of Audiobook Jukebox.
Publisher: AudioGo, Pub. Date: December 13, 2011, Length: 8 hours, 41 minutes

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the co-authors of the Nina Borg thriller series, which center on Nina, a Red Cross worker who tends to run into situations. I wasn't familiar with any of that going into this book, but it didn't really matter - I might have cared a little more about what was happening with her marriage as she dealt with finding The Boy in the Suitcase, but really, that boy was the whole point. 

The plot: a three-year-old boy has been kidnapped from Lithuania, stripped, drugged, and transported to Denmark inside a suitcase. Nina's friend Karin works for the man who seems to be paying for the boy. When Karin finds the suitcase she freaks, quits, and picks Nina as the person to dump all this on. As so often happens in thrillers, knowing the main character can be a curse, and Karin ends up dead before long. Meanwhile, Nina, unsure who the boy is, what language he speaks, or what kind of situation he'd be in if she went to the authorities, opts to piss off her husband by taking off without any sort of explanation. She and the boy find Karin's body, evade the killer, and set off to find answers however Nina can. The boy's mother, Sigita, is working with the Lithuanian authorities to trace him, bombarded with nightmare visions of human trafficking and memories of the rough road single teen parenting has been thus far. 

The pacing is tight, which I always appreciate, and the authors create so many different and distinct POVs for the narrative, but I wish there had been a greater sense of immediacy to create more tension in the plot. And while there is a wide range of characters - rich men, poor women, dreamers, schemers - they don't always go much deeper than their descriptions. "Determined underdog teen mom with a sharp mind and disapproving relatives" and "social climbing businessman who wants his in-laws' approval" may be all we need to know about the boy's mom and the man who has tried to purchase him, but a little more complexity could have gone a long way.

Katherine Kellgren is an ideal narrator for this type of novel. She excels at creating different voices without forcing irritating affectations upon them. (I just listened to a narrator who practically whinnied when portraying an elderly woman, so I'm especially appreciative of that skill at the moment.) She also handles non-English names and place names with ease, and employs very effective pacing as things got tense in the narrative. There were still moments early on when I had to work to remember which one Nina was and how she related to Karin and how she related to Sigita, etc., but that's a constant drawback with audios with so many POV shifts. Overall, she really brought the text to life for me, and I was left feeling that this was one of those cases when the reader made the book better.

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