Book Review: Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

November 26, 2013

Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis is the third novel in the Nina Borg series. The other two books, The The Boy in the Suitcase and Invisible Murder, were both best sellers.

  • 368 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616953047

Book Review Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete FriisMy rating for Death of a Nightingale4

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Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis follows the adventures of Nina Borg, a nurse at a refugee camp located in Denmark. The story follows two timelines, one current and the other in 1930’s Ukraine who are under the thumb (or heel) of “Uncle” Stalin.

Frankly, I found the latter story much more interesting. The authors tell the tale from the point of view of a little girl who doesn’t know life in no other way. In a Grimm-like fashion she witnesses her family being torn apart and everyone is on the brink of starvation. The Soviet machinery is brutal and unforgiving on one side, and on the other her teenage sister has been marked (justifiably) as a government tool which ostracizes her friends.

The book brings forth a side of modern Europe which is rarely seen, that of poverty, hatred and desperation. However, the novel never lectures the reader and tells the story through and through.

While I found the novel a bit convoluted at times, I did enjoy it and thought the Ukrainian chapters were fascinating and terrifying. Even though this is my first Nina Borg novel, I certainly intend on picking up more of the books in the series to find out about this complex and interesting woman.

Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who is wanted for the attempted murder of her Danish fiancée escapes police custody. On that night the police finds the body of her ex-fiancée, a divisive journalist, after he has been tortured.

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, knows Natasha from her work at the refugee camp and has been following her case for some time. Nina cannot see how someone like Natasha was able to kill so brutally and tries to help her.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free.
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  • techeditorNovember 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I read this, too. Here’s what I thought.

    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 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 foreign 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.

    • Zohar - Man of la BookNovember 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

      Thanks for the comment.

      I think translating books is an art by itself and you’re right, much depends on the translator. My favorite ones are books with some comments by the translator explaining the nuances of the text within the culture.

      That being said, if a book has been deemed worthy of translation, it must be very good.

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