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Death of a Nightingale    by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis order for
Death of a Nightingale
by Lene Kaaberbol
Order:  USA  Can
Soho, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Before the fast-paced action begins in this intriguing new Danish mystery (translated by Elisabeth Dyssegaard), readers are treated to something like a prologue in the form of an enigmatic Ukranian folktale featuring an emperor, two sisters, a beautiful song, some ill-fated jealousy, and 'a heart as black as sin.' Then, in two interwoven plot lines, readers follow very different but closely related stories.

In one story, set in the 1930s, an impoverished farm family in Soviet controlled Ukrania must endure unspeakable deprivations and difficulties; most significantly, the bitter seeds of generational betrayal and revenge are being sown in this bleak and hostile world.

In the second story, set in the present era, Natasha Doroshenko, a twenty-six year old Ukranian refugee, escapes from a Copenhagen prison where she had been confined because of an attempted murder conviction, and she now has a single-minded goal: reunion with Katerina, her nine-year old daughter who has been living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of the city. As far as Natasha is concerned, neither Danish authorities nor Ukranian authorities (also pursuing Natasha because of the death of her husband in Kiev), will stand any longer between her and Katerina.

At the same time, the Red Cross nurse Nina Borg - previously featured in The Boy in the Suitcase and Invisible Murder, earlier novels by the Danish writing team of Kaaberbøl and Friis - is equally determined to protect the medically fragile Katerina from all dangers. The fact that the obsessive-compulsive Nina is described by others (including her ex-husband) as hostile and paranoid should alert readers to the simple inevitability that everything has the potential for becoming very dangerous when Natasha and Nina finally confront each other. That confrontation promises to be bad enough, but another problem looms darkly on the frozen horizon in Denmark: someone from Ukrania has other black-hearted ideas about what should happen to Natasha, Katerina, and Nina.

Well, instead of revealing anything further about what lies ahead for readers, here is the bottom line: Kaaberbøl and Friis have served up a complex, compelling mystery, one that is filled with fascinating characters, provocative themes, and plenty of pulse-pounding action; Death of a Nightingale is, in fact, a highly recommended thriller. Enjoy!

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