IN OTHER WORDS....
TRANSLATED FROM OTHER LANGUAGES
by Doris Cassiday
Every event has meaning in The Boy in the Suitcase (SoHo Crime, $24) by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis. It all begins when the protagonist Nina Borg as a favor for a friend retrieves a suitcase from a public locker at Copenhagen’s Central Station. Nina is a nurse with a deep commitment to social problems and when she discovers the contents of the suitcase – a naked boy of three – she focuses all her attention on his identity, his safety, and his return home.
Although thwarted by her lack of knowledge of the boy’s language and fearful of pursuit by the person responsible for putting the boy in the suitcase, she doggedly pushes on.
Another key character is Sigita Ramoškienė who finds herself in a hospital with a broken arm. When she arrives at her apartment she discovers her son Mikas is missing. Sigita goes to her town Department of Missing Persons in Lithuania and is somewhat rebuffed because she is separated from her husband and is just released from the hospital after a fall down a flight of stairs. She takes up the search for Mikas on her own.
Other players, Jan, a rich man on work-related travel, Jučas, a hired henchman, and Nina’s husband Morten appear in the beginning, middle and end of this carefully plotted novel.
Nina is aware of child trafficking and keeps thinking that the boy was “brought to Denmark for the sole purpose of making money for the owners.” The suitcase boy is so very young and strikingly beautiful that Nina wonders what fate has in store for him.
The authors wisely avoid the tendency to write extensive backstories on each of the characters in order to devise a suspenseful narrative. There is a hint that more Nina Borg stories are in progress to match this award winning thriller translated from the Danish by author Lene Kaaberbøl.
Kris and Wolf (brothers), Tamara and Frauke all unemployed or under-employed without prospects are renewing their friendship. While sitting around having a bottle of wine one evening Kris breaks the monotony by stating, “There’s one thing that bosses and action men lack.” His friends stare blankly and he explains, “They can’t apologize.” He continues, “We‘re going to offer them apologies galore at a damned good price.” Thus, begins Sorry (Knopf, $25.95) a unique and twisty novel of crime by Zoran Drvenkar.
Surprisingly the business thrives until one day the Agency is commissioned to go to a certain apartment to apologize to its resident. Wolf accepts the assignment. In the apartment there is a woman nailed to the wall, and he wonders: Where would you get such long nails? Wolf’s mobile rings and he hears a voice say, “Has she slipped?” All four members of the Company must help carry out this extraordinary job because the client expects the body to be removed and properly disposed of.
Inside a paper bag left by the door there are pictures of Kris and Wolf’s father, Frauke’s mother, and a note that reads, “I know where you live, I know who you are.” Panic sets in. They are doomed. The client continues to hover, to incite and brings disastrous outcomes for Kris, Wolf, Tamara and Frauke.
Drvenkar’s stylistic story telling creates a taut, intelligent thriller. He switches from first person, second and even third person to spin his murderous story, and uses multiple viewpoints including “you” as one of the many. Sorry is a suspenseful read that may call for a second-go-round to fully understand and appreciate the nuances brought to the fore by Shaun Whiteside’s translation from the German language.
Jussi Adler-Olsen’s crime thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes (Dutton, $25.95) features Carl Mørck a famous Copenhagen homicide detective until his last case goes awry. He hesitates to fire his weapon: one of his two-member team is killed and the other is paralyzed. The homicide chief faces the dilemma -- punish or promote Carl. He decides on doing both by making Carl head of Department Q, a new division with an office in the basement of Headquarters – out of sight and out of mind. The aim of this department is to solve ancient cases of regional police districts.
Carl’s helper is Assad who is expected to clean, make coffee and serve as chauffeur. However, Assad is not content and wants to do more meaningful tasks. Reluctantly Carl gives Assad a few folders of cold cases and warns him that everything is confidential. Within an hour Assad returns and places a folder on the desk and says, “Here is the only case I remember for myself. She was a pretty girl, that Merete Lynggard, I think.” Assad begins to show his worthiness as an assistant surprising Carl with a cup of mint tea, an insightful suggestion, and a helping hand in tense situations.
The first case for Department Q is that of Merete Lynggard, a rising star in the Danish Parliament, who five years ago vanishes from a ferry that she and her brother Uffe were taking to Germany. Merete was never seen or heard from and the police investigators at the time did not find a trace.
Adler-Olsen shifts to Merete throughout the novel detailing her dreadful entrapment experiences as Carl follows old leads and new evidence. The torture Merete endures is well balanced with Carl’s investigative progress.
Merete’s brother Uffe is brain damaged and mute. Having been abandoned on the ferry he is placed in a sanitarium. Carl insists upon interviewing him but the sanitarium attendants keep discouraging it. Carl is persistent and shows Uffe pictures to arouse his memory. Uffe reacts very emotionally providing Carl a decisive clue to follow for a climatic ending, an ending that comes none too soon.
Characters drive this crime procedural and make it a captivating read. Translation from the Danish language is by Lisa Hartford.
Reprinted from Border Patrol, IACW/NA newsletter
© 2012, used by permission