Review: INVISIBLE MURDER by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

InvisibleMurderKaaberbol20194_fLike its predecessor INVISIBLE MURDER features Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg who, in addition to her day job, volunteers for a group known as the Network which helps refugees and other outliers that normal services don’t, or won’t, provide even basic assistance for. Due to events which are described in THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE Nina has agreed that she won’t do any volunteering for the Network during the periods her husband is away from home for work because she needs to be available for their children, eight year-old son Anton and 14 year-old daughter Ida. However, it doesn’t take much arm-twisting from Peter, her Network ‘boss’, for Nina to break this agreement though, as always, it is because someone is in desperate need of help.

In this instance the help is required by a Roma group who are staying at an old garage. Some of the children are very sick with an unknown illness and there is talk of a teenage boy who was much sicker but he is gone by the time Nina visits. She wants the sickest child to be taken to hospital but the men in the group stop her from taking him: their treatment at the hands of authorities in the past has been harsh and they’re not willing to be separated from one of their children. So what can Nina do but continue to offer what help she is able to give?

In parallel threads we meet a teenage law student from Hungary who learns the hard way that other people won’t let him forget his Roma heritage even if he would like to and the life he is trying to construct for himself falls apart. There’s also an elderly ex-building inspector who is worried that his much younger wife will fritter away all the money he leaves her: she’s already been duped by an online real estate scam and he’s not even dead yet!

I’ve never been more pleased than I am now to have given an author (or pair of authors) a second chance after having had a somewhat lukewarm reaction to their fist book. I am already envisaging INVISIBLE MURDER taking its place on my favourites list for this year as it ticks all the boxes for me.

There are a lot of characters but they all have depth and interest. Nina remains a conflicting personality but whereas in the first book I didn’t really believe her more bizarre actions here I thought her behaviour, even when astonishingly obtuse, was entirely credible, even though I still wanted to shake some sense into her a couple of times. And like Nina or not, her willingness to do something practical, and possibly dangerous, about her outrage at the treatment received by society’s most ill-treated people is something to admire. In an era when many people imagine changing their twitter icon a different colour counts as activism I can’t help but think we need a few more Nina Borg’s in the world.

Sándor is the young Hungarian student whose fragile life we watch dramatically fall apart in a deeply troubling way. He runs the gamut of emotions as, through no fault of his own, he loses all the things he’d treasured – his studies, his home, his girlfriend, his dreams for his future – until he is left with what’s in his pockets and a fractured self-image. It’s a very powerful portrait though just thinking about the poor boy brings a tear to my eye.

In addition to being extremely well constructed, the story that unfolds in INVISIBLE MURDER explores several important social issues but without any hectoring or preaching. It does depict what can happen – what lengths people will go to – when they are marginalised or ill-treated and how even the simplest of motivations (to get money for the family to live on for example) can have disastrous consequences. But it doesn’t offer quick-fix solutions or fail to show that the problems faced in societies like Denmark’s are complex. One of my favourite passages of the book involves a bloke called Søren from the Danish Security Police (I’ve forgotten the exact acronym now) who is interviewing Nina in hospital.  Both are basically good, decent people with intentions to “help people” but their views of how to achieve that are so different that it’s as though they are speaking completely different languages. Which is a pretty damned good description of the world as we know it most days.

Without once losing sight of the fact it must entertain INVISIBLE MURDER manages to inform, inspire and draw compassion from all but the coldest of hearts. Its characters leap off the page, its story compels the turning of each page. Highly recommended.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Tara Chace
Publisher Soho Crime [2012]
ISBN/ASIN 9781616952563
Length 339 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #2 in the Nina Borg series

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16 Responses to Review: INVISIBLE MURDER by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

  1. Jose Ignacio says:

    You have remind me I have both book in my TBR shelf or kindle, Bernadette. It’s probably the time to take the dust of of them.

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  2. Col says:

    Bernadette, I’m going to fall out with you if you keep highlighting books like this, none too helpful for someone trying not to add more……great review, cheers

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  3. Bernadette – I’m so glad you liked this one as much as you did. I like the Nina Borg character very much, and I think the authors do a solid job of weaving the plot threads together. I’ll be interested in what you think of the next one (Death of a Nightingale. It includes an interesting (well, to me) plot thread from past history.

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  4. I enjoyed Boy in the Suitcase more than you did I think but hadn’t decided if I wanted to read this one, you have sold me. Great review. I did enjoy the character of Nina.

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  5. Belle Wong says:

    I have The Boy in the Suitcase in my to-listen stack, but Invisible Murder sounds better. I wonder if I should start with that instead – I just checked and my library has both the audio and the ebook …

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    • I have actually been thinking about this some more and I don’t think you really do need to have read the first one…everything you need to know (mainly about why Nina’s family reacts the way they do to her shenanigans) is explained enough here and the rest is a self contained story.

      It would make a good audio book I think – but then I always think that with the translated stuff – someone pronouncing all the names properly for me 🙂

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  6. Kathy D. says:

    Agree, although I liked the first one. I sympathized with the Roma and other immigrant groups which face bigotry, I like Nina Borg, too, despite her flaws, Her intentions are good,
    I did not like the third book, thought it contrived and that the segments did not mesh well. I
    still can’t figure out the ending.
    However, there is a fourth book in the works; can’t wait.
    Did you read Annie Hauxwell’s In Her Blood — it’s original, not formulaic,

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    • That’s a shame about the third book Kathy…I’ll still have a read of it but I guess you can’t expect a winner every time.

      I did read the Annie Hauxwell book – I liked but didn’t love it – I’ve read the second one too – again it was good not great – something I can’t identify that’s “missing” for it to be one of my must read series

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  7. Karen Russell says:

    I quit reading the first one but you’ve inspired me to give this one a chance. I definitely like the premise of volunteering for the Network, so I really want to like it!

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  8. Kathy D. says:

    I concur, liked In Her Blood, not loved it. Too fantastic an ending, too much violence to too many people to be believable. Too brutal for main character, too, who is left a mess.
    Much is interesting.

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