Review: Invisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

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InvisibleMurderInvisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis (Soho Crime, 2012)

 

For centuries, the Romani (Gypsy) people have been persecuted. They have been enslaved, forced to assimilate into local cultures, and targeted for genocide in the Holocaust. As recently as 2004, Romani women have been subjected to coercible sterilization. Violence and discrimination against Romani populations still occurs throughout Europe, especially southern and eastern Europe. Many Roma have limited access to education, jobs, or even adequate housing. Needless to say, Roma are very wary and suspicious of gadje, or outsiders.

Tamás is a young Roma boy living in Hungary. His family lives in poverty—they don’t even have indoor plumbing, and his best friend Pitkin’s home has no electricity—and he is trying to make money the only way he knows how: scavenging. One day, while exploring an abandoned Soviet hospital, he and Pitkin make an amazing discovery, and Tamás knows his family’s life will finally change for the better. But first, he has to find a buyer, and so he goes to Budapest, where his brother Sándor is a law student, to use Sándor’s computer. This is the beginning of a long, complex series of events that will lead both brothers to Copenhagen.

Nina Borg is a warmhearted nurse who works with refugees in Copenhagen. The Red Cross Center where she works is overcrowded and underfunded, but Nina is committed to helping the people in her care. Nina’s husband is away for two weeks on an oil rig. He and Nina have a deal: While he’s away, she will have no involvement with the Network, an underground group that assists illegal immigrants. But one day she is called to a makeshift shelter packed with Hungarian Roma, many of them children, many of whom are ill. Nina is unable to turn her back on them, and as a result she’s pulled into a dangerous world of human trafficking and terrorism.

Invisible Murder is a difficult book to review. It’s told from four different perspectives: Sándor, the half-Roma law student who is trying to find his brother; Nina, the nurse who is trying to help sick children; Søren, a Danish policeman who is trying to maintain safety and security in the face of terrorist threats against an upcoming international summit; and Skou-Larsen, who isn’t too sure he’s happy about the mosque under construction across the street from his home. The characters are well-drawn, particularly Sándor, whose life is turned completely upside down by his brother’s actions, and Nina, whose kindhearted efforts to help a Roma child have disastrous consequences for her personal life. Nina is a wonderful, likable character who is always motivated to do what she thinks is right , even if it’s against the rules. Sándor, on the other hand, is a law school student who seems to have little passion about anything. Being half-Roma in Hungary, he has learned never to call attention to himself: don’t protest, don’t complain, and prepared to work twice as hard as everyone else.

The plot is complex, full of twists and turns and revelations, and to say more would give away too much. The story is very well told and expertly paced—the tension begins to build almost immediately, and by the end of the book the suspense is close to unbearable. The plight of the Romani people is integral to the story and is also completely organic to it—it’s something Nina and Sándor experience every day, albeit from opposite perspectives—and handled with sensitivity by the authors.

The translation, done by Tara Chace, is excellent, by which I mean it’s seamless—there’s no indication that this was a translated work. This is especially impressive in the scenes that rely on wordplay, which often don’t translate well but work perfectly here.

This is another series that is on auto-buy for me.

 

My rating: 4 stars

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