What does a three year-old boy have to do with a muscled up thug and a wealthy businessman?
Originally written in Dutch, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis is a Nordic crime thriller that follows Red Cross nurse Nina Borg as she deals with a crumbling marriage and her overwhelming need to save the world.
Nina is one of those people who can’t say ‘No.’ So, when her frantic friend, Karin, gives her a key to a public locker in a train station, she goes to get the item that has her friend in a meltdown.
You wouldn’t think much of it if your friend asked this of you, but what if once you got there and lugged the suitcase outside, you found a drugged, blonde-haired, three year-old inside?
After finding this poor little boy in the suitcase Nina is faced with a problem. Do the sensible thing, and turn the boy over to the local police and leave it to them to get the boy back to where he came from, or try and find his mother herself.
Nina knows that her husband will not let her get away with running away from her duty as a mother again, but she feels that she needs to help this little boy herself. There is one pressing question on her mind, “Could he be part of sex-trafficking?”
One stressing detail of Nina’s character is her lack of concern for her family’s well-being. Throughout the whole book she doesn’t feel the need to contact her very worried husband and confirm that she is alive and well. It was hard to relate with her troubles, as she didn’t seem to be very conflicted about helping the boy or staying with her family.
As Nina is avoiding the people who put the boy in the suitcase and trying to converse with the foreign boy, the child’s mother is frantically trying to get the police to take her seriously. This is her second child that has been taken from her and she will do anything to get him back.
While the boy’s mother is trying to find someone to help her get her child back, a wealthy businessman, Jan Marquat, is trying to appease an angry thug that wants his repayment for a suitcase left in a locker.
The thug, Jucas, seems to be the only character in contact with every other character in the story. His narrative was very crude and desperate. All he wants is to live with his love, Barbara, a woman almost twice his age. He can’t run away with her unless he gets repayment for the suitcase he left in the train station locker. Since he is a violent man he doesn’t think to try and fix the problem with words; he uses his fists to kill everyone until he gets what he wants.
All of the character’s flaws hinder the boy’s return to his mother and Nina’s return to her dysfunctional family.
All of the characters will come together with a bang at the end of this incredible page-turner.
Though the theme of the book is a little violent, it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The multiple points of views definitely made the book a challenging read, but incredibly interesting. It is one of the first books that I read for pleasure where I actually needed to make a chart and annotate to keep track of how each character is connected to the other. But don’t let that stop you. I found it well worth the effort.
If you are interested in any type of mystery, crime, or thriller, this is the book for you. Similar to the Millenium trilogy by Steig Larsson, The Boy in the Suitcase is a vivid study in human desperation with morally ambiguous but compelling characters.
Some of the themes in this book might be offensive to certain readers. It contains violence and has allusions to sexual abuse. But seriously don’t let that stop you because this book was amazing.