Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase is released

There is much to like about The Boy in the Suitcase by Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl, out this week from Soho Press. In addition to what I wrote here, herehere and here about the book, it avoids what I've come to regard as a wearying trademark of Scandinavian crime writing: the prologue that ends with the victim dead (or with everything going black,  the smell of the damp earth then ... nothing, the rope tightening, the blade approaching,  etc.)

Yes, this book has a prologue, too, but it's gripping without graphic violence, and it involves no death. It's more akin, in a way, to a thriller than to its Scandinavian crime-fiction brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Like many a Scandinavian crime novel, this book has a social/political agenda (which its authors readily admit). But its occasional explicit "message" passages, about missing children or the treatment of immigrants, are so neatly slipped in among shifting points of view that one never minds them. [Declan Burke takes another Scandinavian crime novel to task for message-mongering over at his Crime Always Pays.]

The book's ending is heart-rending and empathetic in a way you might not expect, and the novel even has a few jokes.
***
How could I have forgotten this when listing reasons to like The Boy in the Suitcase? A late chapter refers  to a pimp especially brutal toward women as "the man with the serpent tattoo."

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Liz said...

FYI: http://www.womenofmystery.net/2011/11/want-to-emulate-lizbeth-salander-h.html

November 09, 2011  
Blogger ULAND said...

It's as though the Scandinavian writers feel a need to justify the very existence of the crime novel, and they do so by invoking Leftist ideologies at every turn.I find it really off-putting ; It isn't enough to explore the murky depths of human behavior at it's most confounding and brutal, they feel they must make sure the reader knows what to make of it.
It's a little bit condescending and pedagogic, no? One is left with the impression that ideology has framed the text from the get-go.In other words, it isn't an open exploration, so to speak.

November 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Liz. I suppose it says something that Lisbeth Salander wardrobe is more easily imitated and merchandised that that of Nina Borg, the protagonist of The Boy in the Suitcase.

Bu the way, The Boy in the Suitcase refers in passing to a pimp who treats women especially badly as "the man with the serpent tattoo." Lene Kaaberbøl, who also transtlated the book into English, says this is a coincidence.

November 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

ULAND, one exasperated commentator said this about the tendency you cite: Yes, we know that your postwar welfare state is not perfect, already.

But this book tells its story gracefully. Sure, it has what some would call a leftist political stance: Denmark does too little to protect children who disappear from its care centers. But that's hardly communistic polemic, for one thing, and, more important, it does not obtrude on the story. It's nothing that would make a reader say uff da! in frustration.

November 09, 2011  
Anonymous Liz said...

Another link:
http://murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com/2011/11/boy-in-suitcase.html

November 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Some nice pictures there. I might add that Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl were exceedingly pleasant company and made fine panelists at Bouchercon.

November 09, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Gee, why don't we all cheer for books which advocate child abuse, kidnapping and immigrant bashing? Then there would be a counter to the books which expose and oppose those social ills.

As a society, we have certain moral precepts and ethics which are codified in laws, religious tenets, educational systems and philosophies.

I had no idea those themes were controversial. I thought they were all a given and a basis of today's societies.

Anyway, I can't wait to get this book. Everything I've read is positive. I may break down and purchase it as I can't stand the suspense any longer -- and the library will take years. And it's published in the U.S. even!

November 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I don't think wariness or even criticism of an overt politcal stance in a crime novel need imply opposition to that stance. I want an author to make his or her political point through the story, not in addition to it. When an author does that, the results can be powerful and compelling, as they are in Dominque Manotti, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Sjowall and Wahloo, and others.

I raises the matter with this book, by two Danish writers, because Scandinavian crime writers are noted for addressing social concens in their work.

November 09, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

And why shouldn't they raise concerns in their books?

Usually an author has a point of view on social issues, but even if he/she doesn't want to write an Op-Ed in the book, there is an underlying current of human decency, humane treatment, respect for other people, children included. And that lots of behavior is wrong--i.e., criminal -- hence, mysteries about who did what to whom and why.

That doesn't mean an analysis of the Chinese state is needed, about which people can disagree -- although Henning Mankell raised his issues in The Man from Beijing, and lots of readers liked it.

But basic issues on how humans treat each other and the violation of that social contract in the mistreatment of others, including children and even of animals and of the environment are usually underlying assumptions in fiction.

Certainly violations of the social contract and how humans agree to live with each other and that certain behavior is immoral and inhuman is the stuff of crime fiction.

November 09, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I don't think we disagree about anything (though we might disagree on a given book, of course).

I prefer, enjoy, and respect authors who can convey a viewpoint without resorting to op-eds when they should be writing fiction. The Boy in the Suitcase is explicitly about the breaking of the social contract, again, that's part of the story and not a grafted on op-ed, and that, in turn, is one reason I liked the book.

November 10, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Uland

True dat as the kids say.

(I put that in just to annoy Peter).

November 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"True dat""? "As the kids say"? If I'm going to be annoyed, I bloody well have the right to know what I'm supposed to be getting annoyed at.

November 10, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

It isn't enough to explore the murky depths of human behavior at it's most confounding and brutal, they feel they must make sure the reader knows what to make of it.

I know exactly what you mean. Please, writers, on the left or right, give us readers some credit for being able to understand your point-of-view without resorting to telling us how we (and all right-thinking people, of course) should feel about an action, a behavior, an issue, etc. in your novels. Through your words, let us either come around to your way of looking at the world, or at least understanding and appreciating your view of it, whether or not it coincides with our own. I, for one, do not read fiction or nonfiction in order to have my political stance, personal beliefs and worldview corroborated, to be able to sit in my comfy chair and whisper to myself: "Right on!" "Yeah!" "Tell is like it is!" It is so much more satisfying to be able to reflect after closing a book: "Hmm, I had never thought of it that way before. This writer opened up new perspectives for me" (or whatever). "And besides, he (or she) is a damn good writer." The last is far more important to me.

The most egregious example of this practice, that I can think of, are John Shannon's Jack Liffey crime fiction novels. Plot developments, action, dialogue, etc. are constantly interrupted with Shannon's personal views on homelessness, immigration, racism, etc. One novel even went so far as to conclude each chapter with a "torn from the headlines" example of same, as if the reader couldn't figure out Shannon's position on these issues without resorting to references and a bibliography for further reading.

I agree with Peter, who wrote: "I want an author to make his or her political point through the story, not in addition to it. When an author does that, the results can be powerful and compelling."

November 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, you might want to have a look at Declan Burke’s review of Cell Eight by Anders Roslund and Borje Hellstrom.

November 10, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Elisabeth

In Stieg Larsson's world all lesbians are cool, all black people are wise, all Texans are wife beaters, all Australians work on sheep stations, etc. etc.

Its not so much his lefty politics, its his lefty politics coupled with lefty cliches that are so irritating.

November 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I make the same recommendation to you: See Declan's review. It's a shame because Roslund and Hellstrom's previous book, Three Seconds is quite a good crime thriller.

November 10, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

lefty politics coupled with lefty cliches

Adrian,
Yes, indeed. The leftist equivalent of, for example, the right's dismissal of those of us concerned about increasing environmental degradation as a "bunch of tree-hugging, latte-sipping, Prius-driving, anti-business kooks." Stereotypes and cliches on the L or R are equally annoying. Leftists and far-leftists comprise the greater majority of my work colleagues and, believe me, any deviation from the accepted, received left-leaning orthodoxy, even for the sake of discussion, is looked upon with much suspicion. The casual contempt and intolerance for anyone outside their self-inscribed circle of wisdom is amazing at times. The very group that describes themselves as "tolerant"!

Just run up the flagpole: "I'm planning on driving through the Midwest next fall" and watch the eyes roll. On my way to read D Burke's review.

Love my v-word: diested

November 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I once read the generalization that crime writers lean to the left, thriller writers to the right. Still, Bouchercon was in St. Louis this year, Cleveland next, upstate New York the year after that. Not sure when it will get to Berkley, Ann Arbor or Madison.

November 10, 2011  

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