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THE CONSIDERATE KILLER
by Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis and Elisabeth Dyssegaard, trans.
Soho, March 2016
320 pages
$27.95
ISBN: 1616955287


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The publicity material that came with this fourth in the Nina Borg series announces that it represents the final installment. Four installments hardly counts as a completed series these days, especially when the previous books have been well-received, as these have. So why retire the Danish Red Cross nurse now? While there may be private reasons on the authors' parts for sending her off, if we look at THE CONSIDERATE KILLER in the light of the three books that precede it, it's possible to see that it does form a natural end to a short but effective series.

In each of these, Nina has skated closer and closer to utter disaster. Moreover, her stubborn, sometimes reckless intervention on the part of those whom she views as hapless victims has endangered her family and finally destroyed her marriage. Even her mother, now suffering from breast cancer, has lost all patience with her.

In an attempt to rescue something from the ashes of the marriage, Nina and Morten had taken advantage of a conference in Manila to spend some holiday time together. It had not worked too well and when a terrible accident occurred in the city, Nina rushed off to help the victims as we might expect, but her motive is not purely altruistic - she needs to get away from Morten. This will prove to be an almost fatal decision, as she learns some information at the disaster scene she barely knows she has and which she does not understand. Nevertheless, what she knows makes her the target for three young Filipinos, who feel they must silence her.

As has been the case in the earlier novels, the narrative is divided between past and present, in this case, going back to Manila three years previously when the bonds among the three were formed. Much of the present finds Nina either recovering from a serious head injury or unconscious and in danger of death. No longer the active intervener in the lives of others, she lacks the strength or even the consciousness to save herself. But however unintentional her involvement in all this was, someone dear to her is still endangered. This time round it is the irritatingly-named policeman Søren Kirkegard, with whom Nina is tentatively establishing a relationship.

As Nina is far from well throughout the book, she is necessarily far less active than she normally has been. The main narrative, therefore, is left to the three young men. We learn who they are, how they came together three years earlier, what the nature of the connections among them is. Sadly, their story is fairly commonplace and the tragedy toward which they are heading is all too predictable.

Over the course of her fictional life, Nina Borg has progressively lost pretty much everything that is precious to her. By the end of the story, she is divorced, estranged to some degree from her children and her mother, and bereft of any illusions she may still have been harbouring about the purity of her attempts to do good in the world. Her battered physical condition will require her to abandon even her profession. Although the authors do relent and provide a certain glimmer of hope at the very end of the book, this is a dark conclusion to a series that had started out largely optimistic about the effectiveness of individual effort in confronting social evil. But it is an honest conclusion, if an uncomfortable one, and that is certainly in its favour. Kaaberbøl and Friis are not about to encourage any sentimental illusions in their readers and for my part, I respect their uncompromising approach.

§ Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, March 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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