Tuesday, March 01, 2016

THE CONSIDERATE KILLER, Finale of Danish Crime Series, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

When Lene Kaaberbøl, a lifelong writer, and journalist Agnete Friis collaborated to write the first Nina Borg crime novel, The Boy in the Suitcase, they swept immediately into the top level of Scandinavian crime fiction. Nominally writing from Copenhagen, Denmark (although Kaaberbøl also is at home on the island of Sark: see her website), they brought to life heroic Red Cross Nina Borg with her fierce commitment to serving the wounded and ill under the most desperate conditions. Not surprisingly, those conditions also foster crime.

In the fourth book in the series, THE CONSIDERATE KILLER (released today), assault in a parking garage takes Nina down with a cracked skull and a very much expected segment of amnesia around the attack. Readers know that her assailant spoke the Lord's Prayer over her, in a language she didn't recognize as her consciousness faded. Her relatively recent lover Søren Kirkegard has even less specifics on why someone would go after Nina. But he's less in denial than she is: Her urge to rescue and to fight for the beleaguered, front and center in the past three titles of her adventures, have always put Nina close to danger. Somehow she insists on pushing into more of it, and her children -- who now live with their (divorced) dad, in an effort to give them safe and sane childhoods! -- have already realized what Nina doesn't seem to grasp: Their mother is never out of danger.

Readers also know, as Kaaberbøl and Friis spin out to Manila and an earlier time, 4 years earlier, that something evil and manipulative happened then in the Philippines. Somehow, for reasons slow to unfurl, that knot of evil has leapt across the globe to Denmark. But what does Nina have to do with it? Her mother, battling cancer, doesn't have time to waste on dainty confrontation:
"Nina-girl, you can't save the entire --"

"Don't call me that!" Nice. Now she had shot out of her chair and stood with two fists floating up somewhere near chin level, like a boxer with his dukes up. Her head was pounding and she forced herself to lower her hands and breathe more calmly. ...

"Nina. You have two children who are afraid of losing you, and you need to deal with that, whether you want to or not."

She had no defense. She couldn't deny it.  ... Nina hadn't exactly sought it out.

... D*mn it. Exactly how rotten a person did you have to be to take out your own frustrations on your cancer-stricken mother?
Soren's not in great shape, either. He's still recovering from the knife Nina deftly inserted into his chest to save his life when his police work went awry in the preceding book, and "work" won't let him back into action until he's shown real recovery. Awkwardly, with less-than-wise choices stemming partly from his own exhaustion, partly from the powerful love he feels for Nina, he flounders into the situation, where a killer keeps apologetically appearing and trying to kill Nina the rest of the way.

Kaaberbøl and Friis do more than shape a hunt for a killer (and an anxious effort by Nina to avoid pulling the threat toward the people she loves): They also frame dramatic contrasts between the Global South and the middle-class affluence of Denmark; between those called to their work, whether nursing or doctoring or policing, and those struggling to get into a "well-paid career"; and between friends and family who link to each other out of love and loyalty, and those who manipulate and maim in order to out-shout the emptiness within them.

In the end, it's Nina's courage that counts, and Soren's persistent investigation, in a long struggle for survival while the motives of the killer and his allies are slowly, painfully revealed. What success can there be -- readers already know from the book's cover that this is the series finale. Who will die? What must be relinquished in order to defeat a spreading illness of menace and blood?

THE CONSIDERATE KILLER wraps up with a fitting, satisfying ending, one where it's good to pause and reflect on these four strong Nina Borg books. This time, there's clearly no sequel, but in spite of searching the websites, Twitter feed, and Facebook posts related to the collaborating authors, I don't have a clue of what's next for this writing team.

But I'm certain it will be well worth reading.

* * *

PS - Kudos to Soho Crime for bringing this series across the Atlantic, and to translator Elisabeth Dyssegaard for making sure the fast-paced and insightful storytelling moves smoothly into English, for American readers.

No comments: