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Tuesday 6 January 2015

‘Death of a Nightingale’ by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis

Published by Soho Crime,
November 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-6165-5304-1

Natasha Doroshenko, who has attempted to murder her Danish fiancé, escapes police custody – and the first place she’ll go is the centre where her daughter is being cared for by Red Cross Nurse Nina Borg.  However her past - the Ukranian Secret Service and the woman known as the Witch - are also on her trail ... 

This is a fast-moving, emotional read, with the vulnerability of the central child, Rina, adding extra tension.  There’s a dual narrative, contemporary Denmark and the hunt for Natasha contrasted with the horrific lives of  two sisters in 1930s Stalinist Ukraine, so the reader has the added challenge of trying to work out how past events are going to relate to the modern story.  The narrative moves from person to person, so we get different perspectives, but our sympathy is with Natasha and Nina, who is trying to help her.  Nina is an interestingly flawed character – deeply sympathetic to her patients, to the extent that she has neglected her own family.  She’s generally competent and quick-thinking – I wasn’t sure her panic reaction which sparks off the last third of the book was completely in character.  There was a vivid feel of winter cold throughout the book, bringing both settings to life.  The plot moved quickly, with a good dialogue / description balance, and it was interesting to get Scandinavian noir from a female perspective.  This is the third Nina Borg novel, but it can be read as a stand-alone.

A gripping novel in the best Scandi noir tradition, but with a wider European dimension.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

 Lene Kaaberbøl was born in Copenhagen in 1960, with suitable drama: the obstetrician had to rush from banquet and was still wearing his white tie and tails. She was 15 when her first two books were published, and since then she has written more than thirty novels and children's books. She has won several national and international awards for her fiction, and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. At her recent nomination for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the IBBY Committee wrote: "She is incredibly skilled at constructing universes and shows remarkable loyalty to her stories and her characters. Lene Kaaberbøl's writing captivates the reader; her worlds draw you in, move you, make you laugh and cry and give you ample food for thought. And it is our assessment that her works have not just national and international potential, but the potential to become classics."
While fantasy is her preferred genre when writing for children and YA, there is nothing remotely fairytale-like about her crime novels for adults. The Boy in the Suitcase, written in collaboration with Agnete Friis, was called a "first rate thriller" by Michelle Wiener of Associated Press:
Lene Kaaberbøl, lives on the small Channel Island of Sark.

Agnete Friis was born in 1974. She is a journalist by training. A Danish writer who is best known for co-authoring Drengen i kufferten, or The Boy in the Suitcase.  Her collaborator, Lene Kaaberbøl, has been a professional writer since the age of 15, 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, and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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