There’s absolutely no ambiguity about the title of this book: there is a boy and he is indeed in a suitcase, discovered there by Danish nurse Nina Borg after a frantic phone call from an old friend demanding that she pick the suitcase up from a local railway station. For reasons that I still don’t fully comprehend when she discovers the perfectly healthy 3-year old boy in said suitcase Nina goes into hiding with him rather than contacting the police, her husband or anyone who might be any use at all in such circumstances. One thread of the book follows her as she tries to work out who the boy is (he doesn’t speak the same languages as Nina) and what she should do with him.
Three other threads follow three other characters: Jan, a wealthy Dane whose travel delays result in him missing out on a very important appointment; Sigita, a single mother in Lithuania who wakes up in hospital with a broken arm and everyone believing her a drunk and Jucas, a criminal type working on a sure fire way to earn the money he needs for his dream life in Poland with his wife. The stories do all connect though not in an entirely predictable way.
I found this book uneven in quality: some of it was very good and some downright clunky. With the exception of Sigita the characters don’t seem properly fleshed out or, in the case of Nina, not quite credible. I could deal with her not being terribly sympathetic but did roll my eyes a bit at her sometimes ludicrous and thoroughly juvenile behaviour. At the end of the novel (in one of the clunkier passages of writing) this behaviour is explained if not justified but even so it still didn’t ring true (for example if she were truly on a mission to save the world then I don’t see how she could have let the young prostitute walk away as easily as she did at a certain point in the novel). So for me Nina’s ‘drive’ felt more like a plot device than a real character trait and I think there was probably a way to tell this story without stretching the credulity of readers to the extent that mine was. As a counter balance though Sigita is a terrifically authentic character, displaying a mixture of guilt, terror, indecision and tenacity that I found truly compelling and believable for her circumstances.
The story was more even and overall was good, though the very short chapters chopping from one perspective to another repeatedly did take some getting used to. However it maintained a good pace and did manage to keep a few surprises up its sleeve until near the end. I was going to write that the book didn’t have a particularly strong sense of place but then I realised that while it might not have screamed Denmark from every page it is a very European book in the way that it mixes people from several countries, all of them multilingual and crossing borders with ease. None of that would be possible on the giant island I live on.
In the end I liked but did not love this book though I think I am in the minority (again) as most reviews seem to have been much more positive. I suppose the thing that struck me most was that some of the themes it raises are dismissed quickly in favour of providing another plot twist whereas I’d have liked to see some of those themes and ideas explored in more depth and would have been happy to sacrifice a plot twist or two for the cause.
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My rating 3/5
Translator Lene Kaaberbol
Publisher Random House 
Length 313 pages
Format eBook (for Kindle)
Book Series standalone ?
Source I bought it
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