Nina Borg is a Red Cross nurse working in a refuge centre in Copenhagen where she tries to keep the vulnerable safe from those who would use and abuse them. A job that is often futile and frustrating, especially since Nina is in the habit of taking every case personally and getting involved with them on an emotional level.
She has just witnessed a young Ukrainian woman go back to her Danish fiancé who almost certainly abuses her, when she receives a call from her old friend Karin. Although contact with Karin has been limited for a few years now, Nina can’t say no when her friend asks her for a meeting because she needs help. When the two women meet Nina is given a token to a storage locker with the request to look after the contents of the locker. Karin is obviously deeply distressed and leaves Nina rather abruptly. Against her better judgment Nina picks up the token, goes to the locker and opens it only to find an old suitcase with a small, sleeping boy inside.
With no idea who the boy is, where he came from and who left him there Nina is at a loss to decide what to do. When a little later she makes eye-contact with a dangerous man looking very angry after finding nothing in that same locker, Nina knows she’s landed herself in a perilous situation, but still has no idea what that situation is.
Looking for answers Nina goes to find Karin, only to discover her brutally murdered. If she had any doubts before, Nina now knows for sure that both she and the little boy are in serious danger and decides to flee, leaving behind her husband and her own two children.
While Nina tries to stay ahead of the man who is hunting her and the boy, in Lithuania a desperate mother is trying to figure out what happened to Mikas, her young son, who was apparently taken by a couple while she was unconscious.
This is what I would call a literary thriller. While it has all the aspects a good thriller has – a mystery, scary villains, a vulnerable hero, violence and chases – the book also spends a lot of time inside the various characters giving the reader the opportunity to really get to understand them, their thought-processes and their motivation. And it manages to give the reader all this information without giving away too much too early in the story. As a result the reader only very gradually finds out exactly what is going on which is very gratifying and keeps them turning the pages.
How much a reader will enjoy this book will for a large part depend on how well they are able to buy into Nina Borg’s habit of throwing herself into other people’s causes while completely ignoring her own needs and those of her own family. While her way of dealing with the situation she found herself in made me want to shake her – I mean why didn’t she just go to the police with the little boy and why did she keep her husband in the dark- it may well ring true for others.
On the other hand, this is a very well written book. The pacing is almost perfect with descriptions and action alternating at exactly the right times.
Once again, as seems to be the case with most if not all of the Scandinavian thrillers I’ve been reading recently, there is a strong political context and message to this story which gives the book a bit more depth than most thrillers tend to have.