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Posts Tagged ‘Lithuania’

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis: Book Review

A woman is struggling with the heavy suitcase she’s just removed from a storage locker.  She manages to get it to her car, but before putting it in the trunk she decides to open it.  “In the suitcase was a boy:  naked, fair-haired, rather thin, about three years old….Not until she saw his lips part slightly did she realize he was alive.”

This first-time collaboration by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis is a terrific read. Taking place both in Denmark and Lithuania, it tells the story from various points of view.  There are several main characters, but so skillfully is the story told that there’s no confusion about who is who or whose voice the reader is listening to.

After the one-page prologue, the first voice is that of Jan, obviously a successful businessman in Copenhagen who is doing something that he must keep secret from his wife. Whatever it is involves something either illegal or immoral, but something is driving Jan to do it “whatever the price.”

The second voice is that of a man named Jucas.  He’s an unknown quantity, driving in the Lithuanian countryside with his lover and dreaming of their future together. But there’s “just one little thing to be done first.”

We then hear from Sigita in Taurage, Lithuania. She’s at a playground with her young son when a woman comes to the playground’s gate to offer young Mikas a piece of chocolate.  Upset by this intrusion, Sigita chases her away and continues playing with her son and drinking coffee from her thermos.  And then everything goes black.

The fourth main character is Nina, a nurse at a Red Cross immigrant center in Copenhagen, who receives a call from a friend. Nina is caring and compassionate, perhaps overly so.  Although she and her friend Karin have not been close in recent years, when Karin asks to meet her as soon as possible, Nina agrees.  Karin needs a favor, a suitcase to be picked up.  When Nina demurs, Karin retorts, “You’re always so keen on saving people, aren’t you?…Well, here’s your chance.”

The plot weaves back and forth between these four characters, plus several others, and between the two countries.  On the periphery is a bewildered husband whose wife is gone without explanation, foreign teenage prostitutes in Denmark, a frightened child, a reluctant policeman.

The central mystery, of course, is why this child has been kidnapped. We learn that he is the son of a single mother who was drugged and attacked so that he could be taken.  But there are no ransom notes, no demands of any kind.  And if there were, Sigita has no money to pay.  So why would her child have been abducted?

I often don’t enjoy stories told in very short chapters by a variety of people.  That style of writing makes me think that the author didn’t know how to segue from one scene or one character to the other.  But that’s not how I felt reading The Boy in the Suitcase. Lene Kaaberbol is the author of numerous fantasy books, and Agnete Friis is a journalist and author of children’s books.  Together they are a marvelous pair.  The first page of this novel grabbed me, and that feeling continued through to the very end.

Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friss don’t have a web page together, but you can read very brief biographies of them at various web pages.