Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can't say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.
Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy's are in jeopardy, too. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.
About 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 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into 27 languages.
Read an Excerpt
Holding the glass door open with her hip, she dragged the suitcase into the stairwell leading down to the underground parking lot. Sweat trickled down her chest and back beneath her T-shirt; it was only slightly cooler here than outside in the shimmering heat of the airless streets. The strong smell of decaying fast food from a jettisoned burger bag did nothing to improve the flavor of the place.
There was no elevator. Step by step she manhandled the heavy suitcase down to the level where she was parked, then realized that she didn’t really want it in her car until she knew what was in it. She found a relatively private spot behind some dumpsters, sheltered from security cameras and the curious gazes of passersby. The case wasn’t locked,
just held closed by two clasps and a heavy-duty strap. Her hands were shaking, and one of them was numb and bloodless from carrying the ungainly weight for such a distance. But she managed to unbuckle the strap and unsnap the locks.
In the suitcase was a boy: naked, fair-haired, rather thin, about three years old. The shock rocked her back on her heels so that she fell against the rough plastic surface of the dumpster. His knees rested against his chest, as if someone had folded him up like a shirt. Otherwise he would not have fit, she supposed. His eyes were closed, and his skin shone palely in the bluish glare of the fluorescent ceiling lights. Not until she saw his lips part slightly did she realize he was alive.
The house sat on the brink of a cliff, with an unhindered view of the bay. Jan knew perfectly well what the locals called it: the Fortress. But that was not why he looked at the white walls with a vague sense of dissatisfaction. The locals could think what they liked; they weren’t the ones who mattered.
The house was of course designed by a well-known architect,
and modern, in a functional-classical way, a modern take on the Swedish “funkis” trend. Neo-funkis. That’s what Anne called it,
and she had shown him pictures and other houses until he understood,
or understood some of it, at least. Straight lines, no decoration.
The view was meant to speak for itself, through the huge windows that drew the light and the surrounding beauty into the room. That was how the architect had put it, and Jan could see his point, everything new and pure and right. Jan had bought the grounds and had the old summer cottage torn down; he had battled the municipal committee until they realized that they most certainly did want him as a taxpayer here and gave the necessary permissions; he had even conquered the representative of the local Nature Society with a donation that nearly made her choke on her herbal tea. But why should he not establish a wildlife preserve? He had no interest in other people’s building here, or tramping all over the place in annoying picnic herds. So there it was, his house, protected by white walls, airy and bright, and with clean uncluttered neo-funkis lines. Just the way he had wanted it.
And yet, it was not what he wanted. This was not how it was supposed to be. He still thought of the other place with a strange, unfocused longing. A big old pile, an unappealing mix of decaying 1912
nouveau-riche and appallingly ugly sixties additions, and snobbily expensive because it was on Strandvejen, the coast-hugging residences of the Copenhagen financial elite. But that was not why he had wanted it—zip codes meant nothing to him. Its attraction was its nearness to Anne’s childhood home, just on the other side of the tall unkempt whitethorn hedge. He couldn’t help but imagine it all: The large family gathered for barbecues under the apple trees,
he and Anne’s father in a cloud of Virginia tobacco, holding chunky tumblers of a very good Scotch. Anne’s siblings by the long white patio table, with their children. Anne’s mother in the swing seat, a beautiful Indian shawl around her shoulders. His and Anne’s children,
four or five, he had imagined, with the youngest asleep in Anne’s lap. Most of all, Anne happy, relaxed, and smiling. Gathered for the Midsummer festival, perhaps, with a bonfire of their own,
and yet enough of them there so that the singing sounded right.
Or just some ordinary Thursday, because they felt like it, and there had been fresh shrimp on the pier that day.
He drew hungrily at his cigarette, looking out across the bay.
The water was a sullen dark blue, streaked with foam, and the wind tore at his hair and made his eyes water. He had even persuaded the owner to sell. The papers were there, ready for his signature.
But she had said no.
He didn’t get it. It was her family, damn it. Weren’t women supposed to care about such things? The nearness, the roots, the closeknit relations? All that stuff. And with a family like Anne’s, so . . .
right. Healthy. Loving. Strong. Keld and Inger, still obviously in love after nearly forty years. Anne’s brothers, who came to the house regularly,
sometimes with their own wives and children, other times alone, just dropping in because they both still played tennis at the old club. To become part of that, in such an easy, everyday manner,
just next door, on the other side of the hedge . . . how could she turn that down? But she did. Quietly, stubbornly, in true Annefashion,
without arguments or reasons why. Just no.
So now here they were. This was where they lived, he and she and Aleksander, on the edge of a cliff. The wind howled around the white walls whenever the direction was northwesterly, and they were alone. Much too far away to just drop in, not part of things,
with no share in that easy, warm family communion except by special arrangement now and then, four or five times a year.
He took a last drag and tossed the cigarette away, stepping on the butt to make sure the dry grass didn’t catch fire. He stood for a few minutes, letting the wind whip away the smell from his clothes and hair. Anne didn’t know that he had started smoking again.
He took the photo from his wallet. He kept it there because he knew Anne was much too well raised to go snooping through his pockets. He probably should have gotten rid of it, but he just needed to look at it sometimes, needed to feel the mixture of hope and terror it inspired.
The boy was looking straight into the camera. His bare shoulders were drawn forward, as if he hunched himself against some unseen danger. There were no real clues to where the photo had been taken; the details were lost in the darkness behind him. At the corner of his mouth, one could see traces of something he had just eaten. It might be chocolate.
Jan touched the picture with one forefinger, very gently. Then he carefully put the photo away again. They had sent him a mobile phone, an old Nokia, which he would never himself have bought.
Probably stolen, he thought. He dialed the number, and waited for the reply.
“Mr. Marquart.” The voice was polite, but accented. “Hello.
Have you decided?”
In spite of having made his decision, he hesitated. Finally the voice had to prod him on.
He cleared his throat.
“Yes. I accept.”
“Good. Here are your instructions.”
He listened to the brief, precise sentences, wrote down numbers and figures. He was polite, like the man on the phone. It was only after the conversation had ended that he could no longer contain his disgust and defiance. Furiously, he flung the phone away;
it arced over the fence to bounce and disappear on the heathered slope beneath him.
He got back into his car and drove the rest of the way up to the house.
Less than an hour later, he was crawling about on the slope,
looking for the damn thing. Anne came out onto the terrace in front of the house and leaned over the railing.
“What are you doing?” she shouted.
“I dropped something,” he called back.
“Do you want me to come down and help?”
She stayed out there for a while. The wind tore at her peach-colored linen dress, and the updraft blew her fair shoulder-length hair up around her face, so that it looked as if she were falling. In free fall without a parachute, he thought, only to check that chain of thought before it could continue. It would be all right. Anne would never need to know.
It took him nearly an hour and a half to find the stupid phone.
And then he had to call the airline. This was one trip he had no wish to let his secretary book for him.
“Where are you going?” asked Anne.
“Just a quick trip to Zurich.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No,” he said hastily. Fear had flooded into her eyes instantly,
and trying to calm it was a knee-jerk reaction. “It’s just a business thing. Some funds I need to arrange. I’ll be back by Monday.”
How had they ended up like this? He suddenly recalled with great intensity that Saturday in May more than ten years ago when he had watched Keld walk her up the aisle. She had been fairytale pretty, in a stunningly simple white dress, pink and white rosebuds in her hair. He knew at once that the bouquet he had chosen was much too big and garish, but it hadn’t mattered. He was just a few minutes away from hearing her say “I do.” For an instant, his gaze caught Keld’s, and he thought he saw a welcome and an appreciation there. Father-in-law. I’ll take care of her, he silently promised the tall, smiling man. And in his mind added two promises that weren’t in the marriage vows: he would give her anything she wanted, and he would protect her against everything that was evil in the world.
That is still what I want, he thought, tossing his passport into the Zurich case. Whatever the price.
Sometimes, Jučas had a dream about a family. There was a mother and a father and two children, a boy and a girl. Usually, they would be at the dinner table, eating a meal the mother had cooked for them. They lived in a house with a garden,
and in the garden there were apple trees and raspberries. The people were smiling, so that one could tell they were happy.
He himself was outside the house, looking in. But there was always the feeling that any minute now they would catch sight of him, and the father would open the door, smiling even wider, and say: “There you are! Come in, come in.”
Jučas had no idea who they were. Nor could he always remember what they looked like. But when he woke, it would be with a feeling of muddled nostalgia and expectation that would stay with him all day like a tightness in his chest.
Lately he had dreamed the dream a lot. He blamed it on Barbara.
She always wanted to talk about how it was going to be—him and her, and the little house just outside Krakow, close enough that her mother would need to take only one bus, and yet far enough away for them to have a bit of privacy. And there would be children. Of course. Because that was what Barbara wanted: children.
The day before it was to happen, they had celebrated. Everything was done, everything ready. The car was packed, all preparations were in place. The only thing that could stop them now was if the bitch suddenly changed her pattern. And even if she did, all they had to do was wait another week.
“Let’s go to the country,” said Barbara. “Let’s go find someplace where we can lie in the grass and be alone together.”
At first he refused on the grounds that it was best not to alter one’s own pattern. People remembered. Only as long as one did what one always did would one remain relatively invisible. But then he realized this might be his last day in Lithuania ever, if everything went according to plan. And he didn’t really feel like spending that day selling security systems to middle-range businessmen in Vilnius.
He called the client he was due to see and canceled, telling them the company would be sending someone Monday or Tuesday instead. Barbara called in sick with “the flu.” It would be Monday before anyone at Klimka’s realized they had been playing hooky at the same time, and by then it wouldn’t matter.
They drove out to Lake Didiulis. Once, this had been a holiday camp for Pioneer children. Now it was a scout camp instead, and on an ordinary school day at the end of August, the whole place was completely deserted. Jučas parked the Mitsubishi in the shade beneath some pines, hoping the car wouldn’t be an oven when they returned. Barbara got out, stretching so that her white shirt slid up to reveal a bit of tanned stomach. That was enough to make his cock twitch. He had never known a woman who could arouse him as quickly as Barbara. He had never known anyone like her, period.
He still wondered why on earth she had picked someone like him.
They stayed clear of the wooden huts, which in any case looked rather sad and dilapidated. Instead they followed the path past the flag hill and into the woods. He inhaled the smell of resin and sun-parched trees, and for a moment was back with Granny Edita on the farm near Visaginas. He had spent the first seven years of his life there. Freezing cold and lonely in the winter, but in the summer Rimantas moved in with his Gran on the neighboring farm, and then the thicket of pines between the two smallholdings became Tarzan’s African Jungle, or the endless Mohican woods of Hawkeye.
“Looks like we can swim here.” Barbara pointed at the lakeshore further ahead. An old swimming platform stuck into the waters of the lake like a slightly crooked finger.
Jučas stuffed Visaginas back into the box where it belonged, the one labeled “The Past.” He didn’t often open that box, and there was certainly no reason to mess with it now.
“There are probably leeches,” he said, to tease her.
She grimaced. “Of course there aren’t. Or they wouldn’t let the children swim here.”
Belatedly, he realized he didn’t really want to stop her from taking her clothes off.
“You’re probably right,” he said, hastily.
She flashed him a quick smile, as though she knew exactly what he was thinking. And as he watched, she slowly unbuttoned her shirt and stepped out of her sand-colored skirt and string sandals,
until she stood barefoot on the beach, wearing only white panties and a plain white bra.
“Do we have to swim first?” he asked.
“No,” she said, stepping close. “We can do that afterwards.”
He wanted her so badly it sometimes made him clumsy like a teenager. But today he forced himself to wait. Playing with her.
Kissing her. Making sure she was just as aroused as he was. He fumbled for the condom he always kept in his wallet, at her insistence.
But this time she stopped him.
“It’s such a beautiful day,” she said. “And such a beautiful place.
Surely, we can make a beautiful child, don’t you think?”
He was beyond speech. But he let go of the wallet and held her for several long minutes before he pushed her down onto the grass and tried to give her what she so badly wanted.
Afterwards, they did swim in the deep, cool waters of the lake. She was not a strong swimmer, had never really learned how,
so mostly she doggy-paddled, splashing and kicking. Finally she linked her hands behind his neck and let herself be towed along as he backstroked to keep them both afloat. She looked into his eyes.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
“Even though I’m an old, old woman?” She was nine years older than him, and it bothered her. He didn’t care.
“Insanely,” he said. “And you’re not old.”
“Take care of me,” she said, settling her head on his chest. He was surprised at the strength of the tenderness he felt.
“Always at your service,” he murmured. And he thought that perhaps the family in the dream was him and Barbara, perhaps that was the point of it all—him and Barbara, in the house just outside Krakow. Soon.
Just one little thing to be done first.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved the story and the thrill. The storytelling was interesting with the use of backstories. Ending has a nice twist. Will recommend to my club.
This book was quite good and suggests that we have a strong, new talent in the combined efforts of the authors. I found the pace of this mystery to be fast and tense with many questions that needed to be answered along the way. Why was the boy in the suitcase? Who is after the main protagonist Nina? Who can she trust? Who will help her? And will she succeed? The resolving of these questions, and others, creates an edge of your seat novel worth reading, but it is not without its problems. The main character, Nina, has a tendency to come across not as independent or self sufficient, but as self absorbed; the result is that I found it hard to connect with her character. However, the story was peopled with others that I DID connect with, such as the little boy and his mother. If the authors carry this novel into a series, and I feel strongly that they should, then I hope they will flesh out Nina's character more so that she is not just a humanly flawed character, but someone the reader can understand and perhaps empathize with. Definitely worth a read, and I think most readers will find the ending to be quite satisfying.
I loved the concept of this book. Unfortunately I found the suspense lost in quick, undeveloped chapters. A reviewer mentioned that the female authors finally presented female characters in a fair light. I disagree. The women in the story were intellectually stunted, consistently making irrational choices, crippled with overwhelming emotion. Between the poor pacing and annoying characters I was left disappointed with what could have been an excellent book.
Nina Borg's life is a busy one. With two children of her own, her job is to help people; working as a nurse for a secret organization that provides medical care to illegals. When she agrees to meet her longtime friend Karin for lunch, Karin begs her to fetch a package from a public locker at the Copenhagen train station. Unwilling to explain what's in the locker, Karin's parting words send Nina down the rabbit hole. Nina discovers a drugged and naked young boy in a suitcase inside of the locker. The boy, Mikas, is unable to speak Danish and when Nina discovers that Karin has been murdered, she doesn't know where to turn or who or what she's running from, trying to stay a step ahead of some very dangerous people searching for Mikas. Another woman is equally desperate; Sigita Ramoskiene, a Lithuanian woman, wakes up in a hospital, the victim of an apparent alcohol overdose. She doesn't have any memory of what happened to her and discovers that her young son Mikas is missing. The tension builds as Nina struggles to identify and protect the boy, while miles away Sigita frantically searches for her son . Unknown to each other, both women become deeply immersed in the horror of human trafficking. THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is a taut and satisfying Scandinavian thriller. Lynn Kimmerle
This book was free, very well edited, 280 pages long and a little hard to get into at first. The flow was a little choppy, but this could have been because it was by a Scandinavian author. Not unlike, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. By chapter three, I was hooked and did not put this book down for the 2 1/2 hours it took me to finish it. This book contains lots of violence, and at times lurid details. It is believeable. All the characters are well written. The details are wonderful, there are some foreign sentences here and there, with a translation afterwards, so this does not present a problem, includes child abuse and trafficking. There are a few sexual referrals, nothing graphic though. I will read more by this author and will purchase the rest of this series. This is not a book for younger readers, due to the violence and content. Recommended for both sexes, ages 18 and up. AD
I purchased and read this book in a day! The characters are riveting. I was absorbed in the story from the beginning with every twist and turn. I love a story that leaves you guessing until the very end and this one is an ace! Exceptional read!
What a great book.. It's harsh and filled with whats probably more reality than i would like to believe. It was pretty fast paced and easy to read, but that isn't to say it was lacking detail. It was colorful but dark smothered in a blanket of bizarre hopefulness, thanks to our two leading ladies, i'd say. All in all i think this book is worth spending a fews with.
Great suspence book...loved it.
Good writing style, just enough well-written descriptions to carry the story in a steadyfast timing. The story is well-developed and with no loose ends. I'll recommend to any mystery novel lovers.
This novel is yet another entry in the growing catalog of Scandinoir coming to these shores, and in many ways fits the general pattern: a socially maladapted protagonist, evil doings involving underage victims, societal rot, Eastern European villains, heat waves. That its central figure isn’t a police detective doesn’t move it very far out of the middle of this stream. Nina Borg (that protagonist) is a Danish Red Cross nurse who allows herself to be badgered into retrieving the titular suitcase and discovering the titular boy. The narrative switches between Nina’s efforts to figure out who the boy is and why he’s in Denmark, the Lithuanian mother’s attempts to find her son, the Polish and Lithuanian kidnappers’ attempts to get paid, and the ultimate culprit’s maneuverings to make everything turn out right. This multi-viewpoint approach works pretty well and ensures the reader doesn’t spend prolonged periods with any character who bugs him/her. It also helps illuminate the various motives at work and the stakes involved using each character’s take on the problem at hand. The prose is clean for the most part, the dialog convincing, and the short chapters keep a loping pace through the shortish (just over 300 hardcover pages) plot. This should’ve worked better for me than it did. What happened? Three big things: -- The central crime – the kidnapping of a Lithuanian toddler for delivery to a wealthy Danish family – ought to resonate strongly, since it’s the pivot on which the entire plot turns. It didn’t for me. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the victim himself. At three years old, Mikas is little more than an object on which forces act, and as such it’s hard to invest in him as anything other than (at best) a generic little boy, or (at worst) an animated Maltese Falcon. -- While the interior settings are generally well-limned, the exteriors are mostly blank canvases. I know little more about how the featured parts of Copenhagen and Vilnius look or feel now than I did before. This leaves the story strangely unstuck in place; it could with very little effort be relocated to Veracruz and St. Louis, or Bangkok and Sydney. -- Nina follows in the footsteps of Kurt Wallander and Harry Hole: a savant who's barely able to keep herself fed and clothed and is mostly unable to function in adult society. She often doesn’t know what to do with Mikas, but is unwilling to turn him over to people who would know; she’s aware a killer is on her trail, but does little to protect herself or the boy. She plunges heedlessly into this case, shredding what few societal attachments she’s somehow managed to form, spending all her money and lurching from one half-thought-out plan to the next. Unfortunately, nearly all the other characters are as damaged and traumatized as Nina. There’s not a single intact marriage, normal childhood or non-derailed life to be found here. Nobody does anything that gives them pleasure. While we expect a certain level of sturm und drang in the new Baltic republics, it’s difficult to credit that the residents of the cleanest, safest, most prosperous societies on the planet are all such miserable wretches. This isn’t a bad book, just another entry in a genre I’m increasingly finding off-putting. There's plenty here to like if you’re a fan of Scandinoir. There’s even a sequel. Just don’t read this book if you’re already depressed, because there’s nothing in it that will make you feel any better about yourself or the world.
A page turner. And a good twist to the story. A must read this year.
I read this as part of Nook friends on FB. I never would have picked it on my own. The story is somewhat complex and the ending was a complete surprise. Glad I read it. Note: there are formatting issues with page numbers
A very good book!
Didnt enjoy this book at all. Very hard to get into. Far too many characters to keep up with. Didnt bother finishing the book after the first half.
Good story, but the writing lacking!!!!!
I am a lover of books. I love reading and I try to expand my interests in different types of books. This book was terrible. I made it to page 118 and still was not impressed. The author's typos annoyed me...the story and the many characters were hard to follow. It just didn't keep me interested. But I tried! I kept reading because I thought it would get interesting...the general IDEA of the book sounded good. What a waste of money!
Good concept, dull book.
A real page turner. Right up there with the best Scandinavian crime fiction.
A real page turner...couldn't put it down!
Gripping page turner. Similar to Kate Atkinson's crime ficton.
Great read. Opens up the lives of those living in all those small countries in Europe and the changes happening due to lowering of boarders. Interesting in that all the protagonists and antagonists wanted the same thing. Family! Of course having a family does not solve all your problems and often creates more. Looking forward to another book by this pair. I think it would make an excellent book club discussion.
Choppy. Hard to keep track at first. Wasn't sure I even wanted to fiinish. Ending finally smoothed out.
I found this book excrutiatingly slow. The first half of the book focuses on frantic, emotional, overwhelmed female characters who it seems we are supposed to find somewhat charming and heroic. You are meant to sympathize with these woman in extraoridinary circumstances, but they come across as annoying and unequipped. The storyline is interesting but doesnt move quickly enough to keep you engaged. It took me, an avid reader, several weeks just to get through the first 2/3's of the book because I had no desire to pick it back up. The last portion of the book finally answering many lingering questions and I did enjoy the ending, but the beginning made me want to give up on the story.
Great plotting, great character development. We read this in my mystery book group and everyone was pleased by it. It is my favorite book that I've read this year.