NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, December 16, 2013

Death of a Nightingale (Nina Borg #3) by Lene Kaaberbol

4.0 out of 5 stars "In Stalin Land, Stalin decides what is true and what is a lie."

Described as Nordic crime fiction, this is the best thriller series I've read in ages. This book is the third one I've read after The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg #1) and Invisible Murder (Nina Borg #2). Quickly hooked, I could not put it down as I was re-introduced to Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse who works in a camp for refugees. Nina is a middle-aged mother of two and recently divorced from her long suffering husband who finds her behavior often inexplicable and finally had enough of her. She has a history of rushing off to "save" people and in this case it's no different -- this time she's protecting Katarina (Rina), the eight-year-old daughter of Natasha Doroshenko - a women who had fled to Copenhagen and is an illegal from the Ukraine and who finds that things have not improved much for her. Natasha is jailed after attempting to murder her abusive fiance, Michael, and escapes custody on her way to police headquarters. This is when things really get interesting! Natasha is desperate to be reunited with her daughter, but there are other people now looking for them both. Who are they, and what do they want? Now Michael is dead and Natasha is accused of the crime. And, as Nina finds out, this may not be the first time Natasha has murdered someone...

Along with this storyline, the reader is exposed to another that is set in the Ukraine during the early years of the Stalinist regime (Soviet Republic) in 1934. At that time, there was a terrible famine and the concurrent rise of the political machine (Party) that encouraged children to report on their family and neighbors as kulaks who wanted to be fed by the proletariat. Two little girls, Olga and Oxana watch as their life, village, and family change under the Soviet state. These two sisters are being trained as young pioneers when Oxana is singled out for her singing ability and is asked to perform at a meeting. Jealousy, extreme cold, hunger, and the other problems within their family, lead to a decision that ruins them all. How is this story related to Natasha?

Even though a bit confusing with the multiple narratives and points of view, it all converges in an interesting climax by the end of the book. I had to flip back and forth at times to keep track of names, places and dates. Nina is an interestingly flawed character who is emerging stronger though she still has a lot of issues to work through. Other characters in the book have appeared in previous novels and it's important, I think, to have read the other two books in the series before you tackle this one as there is quite a bit of history and detail there. I think it would be weak as a stand alone and probably quite hard to understand all the motivations.

I'd recommend this series to anyone looking for a strong heroine who is not a detective, but who is peripherally involved in a mystery that involves different police agencies and that has an unusual setting. Often the novel leaves the reader with issues to ponder (illegal immigration, abuse, communism, murder, vendetta, informing on family) and for book groups to discuss.

Amazon Vine ARC.

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