Monday, November 18, 2013

Death of a Nightingale - Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

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. Read an excerpt of The Death of a Nightingale. You can find Kaaberbol and Friis on Facebook.

1 comment:

techeditor said...

I read this, too, and liked it.

Because books that are translations depend so much on the translator, I usually stay away from them. Besides, there seems to be a craze lately for any mystery/thriller written by a Nordic author. So DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE had two points against it for me right off the bat.

Surprise: DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE is very good as long as it doesn't bother you that you can't pronounce most characters' names. It also has a slower beginning than lovers of thrillers expect. But it doesn't take long for some mysteries to be set up.

Most books need a list of characters at the beginning, but this book needs one more than most. DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE has so many characters to keep track of, and that's especially difficult when 1) all their names are foreigh with strings of consonants and 2) this book is two stories in one. Because there is no such list, a lot of backtracking is required, which gets tiresome.

My advice to the editor of DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE: provide a list of characters with a pronunciation key. This would upgrade it to a five-star book.

This review is of an ARC of DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE, won through First Reads program.