8.03.2013

Death of a Nightingale, by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 5 November 2013.

Death of a Nightingale
Death of a Nightingale is the third book in Kaaberbøl and Friis' Nina Borg series. Nina works as a nurse at a refugee center near Copenhagen, Denmark and has a bad habit of bringing her work home with her. In the first book in the series, Nina found a boy who was intended to be an unwilling organ donor. In the second, she helped a pair of Roma boys who attracted attention from the wrong people. In this book, Nina gets caught in between a mother desperate to protect her child, old secrets that people are willing to kill to protect, and her own counties police who are trying to figure out just what's going on. Nina calls herself the crisis queen, but by trying to keep a child safe she is pushed to her limits.

The book opens with an old woman telling her son and grandchild a chilling fable about a princess who pays a dreadful price by trying to best her sister. Then Kaaberbøl and Friis show us another woman's perspective. Natasha was the sheltered wife of a journalist who accepted money to reveal or hide other people's secrets. Her husband's dealings led to his death and almost his wife and child's, too. Natasha flees with her daughter to Denmark. But her bad luck continues and she ends up serving a prison sentence for attacking her boyfriend, who had pedophilic leanings. She cannot catch a break. She escapes from police custody rather than risk being deported, but she has to get her daughter first.

Kaaberbøl and Friis then shift the story to Nina Borg and her friend, Søren Kirkegard (not the philosopher--that's spelled differently, anyway). Søren tries to help Nina when Nina figures out that the people Natasha is running from want to kill Natasha's daughter. It might seem like a tangled web from my description, but Kaaberbøl and Friis make it all work out. The story unfolds over a short couple of days. There are chases and gunplay and, above all, secrets.

It becomes clear that the fable at the beginning is the old woman's shorthand for her own life experiences during the Holodomor and the Great Purge in the Ukraine. We get this story in between chapters from Nina, Natasha, and Søren's perspectives. The woman, Olga, was just a girl that Stalin's government and her own family forced into an untenable position. The story might seem out of place, but Kaaberbøl and Friis bring all the plots together at the end of the book.

By the end of the book, I felt that this book was more about the Natasha and Olga than about Nina. Nina has her own personal epiphanies, but the stories of the Ukrainian women were much more interesting to me because of the history behind them. It was thrilling to see Natasha grow from an ignorant girl willing to let others take care of her into a fierce, ursine mother. Even though she wasn't making the wisest choices, it was hard not to cheer for her.

The end of Nina's story leaves the future of the series ambiguous. I'm not sure if there will be more. If there are more, Kaaberbøl and Friis are going to have to explore some new territory for their character. This isn't a bad thing. I've noticed with other series that, after a while, authors become reluctant to change their formula. Sure, the formula sells, but it gets boring after a while. Whatever's in store for Nina definitely won't be formulaic or boring.

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