Death of a Nightingale (Nina Borg Series #3)

Death of a Nightingale (Nina Borg Series #3)

3.8 6
by Lene Kaaberbøl, Agnete Friis, Elisabeth Dyssegaard

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From the Nordic noir duo who brought you The New York Times bestseller The Boy in the Suitcase comes a chilling new thriller with a mystery seventy-years in the making.

Nina. Natasha. Olga. Three women united by one terrifying secret. But only one of them has killed to keep it.

Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been


From the Nordic noir duo who brought you The New York Times bestseller The Boy in the Suitcase comes a chilling new thriller with a mystery seventy-years in the making.

Nina. Natasha. Olga. Three women united by one terrifying secret. But only one of them has killed to keep it.

Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been convicted for the attempted murder of her Danish ex-fiancé, escapes police custody on her way to an interrogation in Copenhagen’s police headquarters. That same night, the ex-fiancé’s frozen, tortured body is found in a car. It isn’t the first time the young Ukrainian woman has lost a partner to violent ends: her first husband was murdered three years earlier in Kiev in the same manner.

Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has followed Natasha’s case for years now, ever since Natasha first took refuge at her crisis center. Nina just can’t see the young mother as a vicious killer. But in her effort to protect Natasha’s daughter and discover the truth, Nina realizes there is much she didn’t know about Natasha and her past. The mystery has long and bloody roots, going back to a terrible famine that devastated Stalinist Ukraine in 1934, when a ten-year-old girl with the voice of a nightingale sang her family into shallow graves.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/23/2013
Artfully drawn characters who are a pleasure to know populate Kaaberbøl and Friis’s excellent third thriller featuring nurse Nina Borg (after 2013’s Invisible Murder). At a Red Cross crisis center in Copenhagen known as Coal-House Camp, Nina bonds with Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian refuge. Natasha is arrested for the attempted murder of her abusive Danish fiancé, but Nina believes she is innocent, even after Natasha escapes from custody and the fiancé is brutally slain. Meanwhile, two Ukrainian police officers arrive in Copenhagen looking for Natasha to question her about the murder of her husband, Pavel, three years earlier in Kiev. Nina asks for help from Søren Kirkegard, a member of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, whom she knows slightly and trusts implicitly. Woven in with the present-day narrative are scenes from 1934 Ukraine, where two sisters are starving in a nightmare childhood. The stories eventually link up, of course, with one final clever twist. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Death of a Nightingale

A BBC Front Row Best Crime Novel of the Year
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mystery of of the Year

A Book Page Best Mystery & Thriller of the Year
An IndieNext Selection
A Public Library Association LibraryReads Selection

"[Nina] joins the sisterhood of run-amok heroines like Homeland's Carrie Mathison and Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Nina doesn't just have a bee in her bonnet—she has a whole hive. And it's buzzing away in her latest adventure, Death of a Nightingale, an elaborately plotted page-turner that flits from today's liberal-minded Denmark and mobbed-up Ukraine to the starvation-racked Soviet Union of the Stalinist '30s."
—John Powers, NPR's Fresh Air

"Death of a Nightingale is a gripping and elegant tapestry of a novel. A seamless weaving of psychological depth and rocket-paced plotting, the story hooked me in and the strong, complicated, and fascinating women at its center kept me utterly riveted cover-to-cover.  Nina Borg is one of my new favorite heroines!"
—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of In the Blood

"Feminist outrage fuels the politically pointed novels of the Danish writing partners Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis . . . Nina is all heart and her efforts to bring justice to women like Natasha are heroic."
—New York Times Book Review

"A moving story . . . [Kaaberbøl and Friis] tell a socially conscious—and, at times, critical—tale about immigration issues that apply both to Denmark and the U.S. without sacrificing the urgency of the best thrillers."

"Required reading for fans of the burgeoning field of new Nordic suspense."
—Kirkus Reviews

"There are two parallel stories told in this exciting mystery. The main story is about a beautiful young Russian woman, Natasha, accused by the Ukrainian authorities of murdering her husband. She manages to escape with her young daughter to Denmark. Subsequently she is sent to a Danish prison for the murder of her fiancée. There are many clues that seem to demonstrate her innocence, but someone prefers that the truth be left unknown. The second story line takes place around 1934 when Stalin was in power. Oxana, also called the nightingale of the people, and her younger sister Olga are featured. The dreadful circumstances of their lives have tentacles that reach far into the future, and collide with the fate of Natasha and her daughter. The mystery builds and builds in intensity until it is almost impossible to put the book down."
—ABA IndieNext Selection

“Compulsive do-gooder Nina Borg is now involved with Ukrainian detainees seeking asylum in Denmark. Among them are Natasha, an abused refugee and widow of a slain journalist, and her anxious 8-year-old daughter, Katerina. The two are pursued by a mysterious, powerful Ukrainian woman and Danish security forces, who consider Natasha a suspect in her fiance’s murder. Two plots gradually merge in a dramatic climax. Recommended for fans of Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridison, Colin Cotterill and mystery lovers who prefer plots that explore social justice and morality.”
—PLA LibraryReads Selection

"Artfully drawn characters who are a pleasure to know populate Kaaberbøl and Friis’s excellent third thriller featuring nurse Nina Borg . . . Woven in with the present-day narrative are scenes from 1934 Ukraine, where two sisters are starving in a nightmare childhood. The stories eventually link up, of course, with one final clever twist."
Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

"Nina is an imperfect hero, which makes her all the more appealing."
—The Boston Globe

"[The] latest Nina Borg mystery grips . . . A sense of mystery and threat looms large over the gloomy, ice-bound landscape."
—The Independent (UK)

"The authors follow their 2011 Nordic noir hit The Boy in the Suitcase with this intense murder mystery, once again starring Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. Intricate, compelling and dark."
—The Sacramento Bee

"Explores a different kind of trauma, with deep, twisting roots in the forced famine of Stalin in Eastern Europe of the 1930s . . . This well-crafted book takes us to the inevitable conclusion that, while life can go on after the worst of the worst, the past is always with us."
Buffalo News

"Scandinavian Crime Aficionados will love this chilling modern thriller."
Mystery Tribune

"Readers who like historical fiction will nonetheless find themselves intrigued by the emotionally resonant portrayal of the sisters growing up in extraordinary times, and readers who like thrillers that touch on women’s issues will appreciate the sketches of two women, one determined to save her child at any cost, the other obsessed with saving the world one person at a time." 

"Fascinating and terrifying."
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Fans of the duo's previous books will not be disappointed."
—Library Journal

"The Danish duo just keeps getting better . . . [Death of a Nightingale] is near perfect."
—RT Book Reviews, Top Pick

"One police character in Death of a Nightingale describes Nina Borg as 'hostile to authority and borderline paranoid.' That’s one way of looking at our Nina’s heroism."
—Toronto Star

"Once again, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis have constructed an emotional roller coaster ride peopled by characters of marvelous depth and nuance."
Kittling Books

"Kaaberbøl and Friis have served up a complex, compelling mystery, one that is filled with fascinating characters, provocative themes, and plenty of pulse-pounding action."

"Kaaberbøl and Friis are among the very best writers in the current crop of Scandinavian crime writers." 
—Glenn Harper, International Noir Fiction

"Ultimately a story of families torn apart, both in the present and in the past . . . A welcome addition to an already outstanding panoply of Scandinavian crime novels."
—Crimespree Magazine

"This is the third in the Nina Borg series, and this latest title certainly caters to the mystery (and slightly gory) reader . . . Readers will discover the reason for the gory fable at the beginning, and by the end of the book, they’ll be cheering."
—Suspense Magazine

"Intricately woven, utterly compelling."
Criminal Element

"May be the best of the series."
—Midwest Book Review

"How can I put this? It seems wrong to say it’s entertaining or a pleasure to read, because it will make you sad and angry and ache with sympathy. Yet it’s a story that you will care about and the plot will propel you forward. Perhaps the most accurate words for it are 'thrilling' and 'unforgettable.' It’s a very good book."
Barbara Fister, Scandinavian Crime Fiction

"The contemporary story alternates with a riveting account of life in Ukraine in the 1930s, first during the famine and the campaign against the kulaks . . . Two little girls are at the center of this story, one eight, the other ten. What they did as children and what was done to them is still reverberating seventy years on."
—Reviewing the Evidence

"Loved this . . . A terrific story of how the past can continue on and  spread its tentacles into the future."
Before It's News

"A stunning indictment of all that was wrong with Stalinist Russia . . . [and] a story that will leave the reader on the edge of the seat until the end."
—Deadly Pleasures

"Suspense that captivates you and characters that quickly become much more than just clever constructions."
Extra (Ekstra Bladet, Denmark)

"Incredibly well written with both an original and suspenseful plot."
Politken (Denmark)

"Captivating, fast-paced and moving."
The Jutland Post (Jyllands-Posten, Denmark)

"Elegantly told and thankfully completely without any of the normal clichés that otherwise rule the genre. A really well composed thriller."
West Jutland News (JydskeVestkysten, Denmark) 

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
In the third book of this Scandinavian crime series (after Invisible Murder), Red Cross nurse Nina Borg is once again involved in the lives of Eastern European immigrants living in Denmark. She has been treating an eight-year-old Ukrainian girl at a Red Cross center while the girl's mother, Natasha Doroshenko, is in police custody. Natasha has been arrested for murdering her Danish fiancé. After Natasha escapes custody on the way to Copenhagen's police headquarters, her only goal is to be reunited with her daughter. However, someone tries to abduct the child from the center. As Nina investigates the attempted abduction, she realizes she knows very little about Natasha's life in the Ukraine and will discover that the secret may lie far in the past—back to the Stalinist 1930s. On a personal level, Nina, now divorced, is trying to keep her relationship with her own two children while attempting to safeguard the other woman's child. VERDICT While the parallel story line describing family life in 1930s Ukraine at times is disruptive to the main plot, fans of the duo's previous books will not be disappointed. The authors maintain similar tension and mood as in their earlier books, and Nina Borg remains determined to protect those whom others might see as outcasts from society.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
The third installment of the Nina Borg trilogy (Invisible Murder, 2012, etc.) shuttles back and forth between a nerve-racking present and an unspeakable past. Now that she's been arrested for trying to stab her abusive fiance, Michael Vestergaard, to death, what else can go wrong in Natasha Doroshenko's life? Hours after she escapes the police officers transferring her from her prison cell to a Copenhagen station for questioning, someone succeeds in killing Vestergaard, and police commissioner Mona Heide is convinced it's Natasha. Only Nina Borg, a nurse who observed Natasha and her daughter Katerina, 8, at the Coal-House Camp, believes that she escaped to take her daughter away from the camp, not to finish the job on her former lover. As Natasha, Nina and the police, with the unwanted assistance of a mysterious pair of Ukrainian cops, work at desperate cross-purposes in the present, trouble is brewing in Ukraine during the famine of 1934. Olga Trofimenko's father, Andreij, who has brought his wife and children--Olga, her older sister, Oxana, and their younger brother, Kolja--to Mykolayevka so that he can manage the collective farm there, abandons his family to take up with another woman, throwing them on the dubious mercies of their doctrinaire schoolteacher, Comrade Semienova, and Uncle Stalin. Sooner or later, of course, this grim past will collide with the troubled present, and trying to imagine how they'll come together, and whether their connection will justify all the threatened coincidences and loose ends, is the chief pleasure this ice-cold thriller offers. The most conventionally plotted of Nina's three adventures, and the one in which she has the least to do, is still required reading for fans of the burgeoning field of new Nordic suspense.

Product Details

Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
Nina Borg Series , #3
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Read an Excerpt

“Go on,” says a man’s voice.
          “I’m tired.” An older woman answers, clearly uncomfortable and dismissive.
          “But it’s so exciting.”
          “Exciting?” there’s a sharp lash of bitterness to her reaction. “A bit of Saturday entertainment. Is that what it is for you?”
          “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”
          They are both speaking Ukrainian, he quickly and informally, she more hesitantly.
          In the background you can hear occasional beeps from an electronic game.
          “It’s important for posterity.”
          The old woman laughs now, a hard and unhappy laughter.
          “Posterity,” she says. “Do you mean the child? Isn’t she better off not knowing?”
          “If that’s how you see it. We should be getting home anyway.”
          “No,” the word is abrupt. “Not yet. You can stay a little longer.”
          “You said you were tired,” says the man.
          “No. Not…. that tired.”
          “I don’t mean to press you.”
          “No, I know that. You just thought it was exciting.”
          “Forget that I said that. It was stupid.”  
          “No, no. Children like exciting stories. Fairytales.”
          “I was thinking more along the lines of something real. Something you experienced yourself.”
          Again a short pause.
          “No, let me tell you a story,” the old woman then says suddenly. “A fairytale. A little fairytale from Stalin land. A suitable bedtime story for our little girl. Are you listening, my sweet?”
          Beep, beep, beep-beep. An unclear mumbling from the child. Apparently she isn’t  really paying much attention, but that doesn’t stop the old woman.
          “Once upon a time there were two sisters, “she begins, clearly as if reciting. “Two sisters who both sang so beautifully that the nightingale had to stop singing when it heard them. First one sang for the emperor and in that way caused many people’s undoing. The other one resented that and she began to sing too “
          “Who are you talking about?” the man asks. “Is it you? Is it someone we know?”
          The old woman ignores him. There’s a harsh ring to her voice. As if she is using the story to punish him.
          “When the emperor heard her, his heart grew inflamed and he had to own her,” she continued. “Come to me,” he begged. You can be sure he begged.
          “Come to me and be my nightingale. I’ll give you gold and beautiful clothes and a servant for every finger.”
          Here the old woman stops. It’s as if she doesn’t really feel like going on, and the man no longer presses her. But the story has its own relentless logic, and she has to finish it.
          “At first she refused. She rejected the emperor. But he persisted. “What should I give you then?” he asked, because he had learned that everything has a price. “I will not come to you,” said the other sister, ‘before you give me my evil sister’s head on a platter.’”
          In the background the beeping sounds from the child’s game have ceased. Now there is only an attentive silence.
          “When the emperor saw that a heart as black as sin hid behind the beautiful song,” the old woman continues, still using her fairytale voice: “He not only killed the first sister, but also the nightingale’s father and mother and grandfather and grandmother and whole family. ‘That’s what you get for your jealousy,’ he said and threw her out.”
          The child utters a sound, a frightened squeak.  The old woman doesn’t seem to notice.
          “Tell me, “ she whispers. “Which of them is me?”
          “You’re both alive,” says the man. “So something in the story must be a lie.”
          “In Stalin land, Stalin decides what is true and what’s a lie,” says the old woman. “And I said that it was a Stalin fairytale.”
          “Daddy,” says the child. “I want to go home now…”
          Natasha started; she had been sitting silently, looking out the window to one side where Copenhagen gliding by in frozen, stiff and gray colors. Dirty house fronts. Dirty snow and a dirty low sky where the sun had barely managed to rise about the rooftops in the course of the day. The car’s tires hissed in the soap-like mixture of snow, ice and salt which covered the asphalt. None of it had anything to do with her, and she noted it all without really seeing it.
          “You speak Danish, don’t you?”
          The policeman in the passenger seat had turned toward her and offered a little, blue-white pack, and she nodded and took a piece. Said thank you. He smiled at her and turned back into his seat.
          This wasn’t the “bus” as they called it – the usual transport from Vestre Prison to the court—that Natasha had been on. It was an ordinary patrol car; the police were ordinary Danish policemen.  One, the one who had given her the gum, was a young man, thirty at the most. The other was old and fat and seemed nice enough. Danish police had kind eyes. Even that time with Michael and the knife, they had spoken calmly and kindly to her as if she hadn’t been a criminal they were arresting but rather a patient going to the hospital.
          One day, before too long, two of these kind men would put her and Katerina on a flight back to the Ukraine, but that’s not what was happening today. Not yet. It couldn’t be. Her asylum case had not yet been decided, and Katerina was not with her. Besides, you didn’t need to go through Copenhagen to get to the airport, that much she knew. This was the way to police headquarters.
          Natasha placed her hands on her light blue jeans, rubbed them back and forth hard across the rough fabric, opened and closed them quickly. Finally she made an effort  to let her fists rest on her knees while she looked out at Copenhagen and tried to figure out if the trip into the city brought her closer to or farther from Katerina. During the last months, the walls and the physical distance that separated them had become an obsession. She was closer to her daughter when she ate in the canteen than when she was in her cell. The trip to the yard was also several meters in the wrong direction, but still felt soothing because it was as if she was breathing the same air as Katerina. On the library computer she had found Google Street View and dragged the flat little man in to the parking lot in front of the prison, further along Copenhagen’s streets and up the highway entrance ramp to northern Sealand. It was as if she could walk next to him the whole way and see houses and store fronts and trees and cars, but when he reached Kulhus Camp, he couldn’t go any further. Here she had to make do with the grubby satellite image of the camp’s flat barrack roofs. She had stared at the pictures until she went nearly insane. She had imagined that one of the tiny dots was Katerina. Dreamed of getting closer. From the prison, it was 23 kilometers to Kulhus Camp. From the center of Copenhagen it was probably a few kilometers more, but on the other hand, there were neither walls nor barbed wire between her and the camp right now. There was only the policemen’s thin steel shell, air and wind, kilometers of asphalt and later fields and wet forest floor.
          She knew it wouldn’t do any good, but still stretched out her hand and let it touch the young policeman’s shoulder.
          “You still don’t know anything?” she asked in English.
          His eyes met hers in the rear view mirror. His gaze was apologetic but also indifferent. He shook his head.
          “We’re just chauffeurs,” he said. “We aren’t usually told stuff like that.”
          She leaned back in her seat and started to rub her palms against her jeans.  Opened and closed her hands. Neither of the two policemen knew what she was doing at police headquarters. They had nothing for her except chewing gum.
          The case with Michael was long finished, so that probably wasn’t what it was about, and her asylum case had never yet required interviews interrogations anywhere but Kulhus Camp.
          Natasha felt the fear make her stomach contract, so she had to shit and pee at the same time. If she had just had Katerina there. If they had just been together. At night in the prison she had the most terrible nightmares about Katerina alone in the children’s barrack, surrounded by flames.
          Or Katerina making her way alone into the swamp behind the camp.
          It was unnatural for a mother not to be able to reach out and touch her child. Natasha knew she was behaving exactly like the cows when their calves were taken from them in the fall, and they stood, their shrill bellowing lasting for hours,, without knowing which way to direct their sorrow. She had tried to relieve her restlessness with cold logic. She and Katerina were not separated forever, she told herself. She came to visit once in a while with Nina, the lady from Kulhus Camp, who reassured Natasha every time that she would personally take care of Katerina. Rina, the Danes called her. They thought that was her name because that’s what the papers said. But Rina wasn’t even a name. It was what was left over when a little man in Dublin had done what he could to veil the original text.
          Maybe that’s why she was here? Had they discovered what the man in Dublin had done?
          Her dread of the future rose like the tide. Her jaw muscles tightened painfully, and when she crushed the compact piece of gum between her teeth, everything in her mouth felt sticky and metallic.

Meet the Author

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of fifteen, with more than two million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, has been translated into thirty languages, and has sold half a million copies worldwide.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Death of a Nightingale 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis return with their third book - Death of a Nightingale - featuring protagonist Nina Borg. Nina is a Red Cross nurse working in a Danish refugee camp. She's passionate about her work and the people she looks after - to the detriment of her own life. Her marriage has broken down and she's lost custody of her children. Death of a Nightingale continues the story of two of the residents of Coal House Camp - Ukrainian national Natasha and her daughter Katerina. Natasha has been convicted of the attempted murder of her abusive Danish boyfriend, but escapes custody on her way to sentencing, determined to reclaim her child. Alternate chapters tell the story of two little girls in Stalinist Ukraine in 1934. The glimpse into the past is chilling and compelling. Written from a child's viewpoint, I found these chapters fascinating and found myself heading to the 'net to read more about this period in history. Slowly but surely Kaaberbol and Friis meld the two story lines together. I enjoyed the well plotted and slow paced reveal. Friis and Kaaberbol have populated the book with incredibly strong female characters, each with dogged and determined wills. Lines are blurred often - what is right versus what is lawful. And what needs to be done. I think this is why I like Nina so much. She is far from perfect, but tries to do right by everyone in her life. She's failing, but is able to see her shortcomings and indeed acknowledges she may not be able to change - her family may be lost to her. The plot is well crafted and the story moves along quickly, with lots of action and bite your nails moments. The ending is tied up but leaves the door open for the next in the series - one I will be picking up for sure.
Zola25 More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan since "The Boy in the Suitcase", which I couldn't put down. This one has potential, but falls short in places. The characters, old and new, are as mysterious and conflicted as ever, but they are less defined and therefore less compelling. The storyline is a leftover from the past, and it is missing the urgency and action of past works. The European history lesson this time centers on Ukraine, which makes for some interesting reading considering recent events. All in all, a tame read.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
There are protagonists of all kinds, professions, sexes and other attributes, but in this series the protag is a Red Cross nurse, and an unusual one, since she has a compulsion to save the world and mistreated underdogs. So Nina Borg, in this, the third novel in the series, has a Ukrainian refugee, accused of knifing her abusive fiancé (as well as her husband back in the Ukraine), and her young daughter to protect. The plot includes a back story which takes place in the Ukraine during 1934-5 involving two sisters, one of whom is a die-hard Stalinist communist, but both of them sweet singers “like a nightingale. The present-day events, of course, have their roots on what happened to the sisters during the ‘30’s and right up to the time of the present story. This novel may be the best of the series, maybe the co-authors are developing an ability to lessen dependence on Nina’s personal problems, such as her divorce, and more on solid plotting. The novel is well-written and the translation is smooth. Recommended.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Nice to get more on Natasha and her child. Won't change your life but will kill time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ressistance is futile. You will be incinerated.