Natasha Doroshenko is an illegal immigrant in Denmark when she’s imprisoned for pulling a knife on her abusive boyfriend–not because of the abuse, but because he assaults her daughter. She is being taken from the jail to the downtown station when she overhears some words spoken in her native Ukrainian, and she panics, grabs a rock, brains one of the policemen, and runs. Soon afterwards, her ex-boyfriend is found brutally murdered, locked in a car with his hands broken. And this isn’t the first time–3 years earlier, her husband’s body was found, done to death in a similar manner. As the manhunt for her escalates, Natasha is only worried about finding her daughter.
Nurse Nina Borg works in a center for illegal immigrants, and she watches over Natasha’s young daughter, who suffers debilitating asthma attacks. When someone tries to kidnap the girl, Nina realizes something else is going on. Determined to find out and protect the girl, she puts her in an impromptu safe house and puts herself in harm’s way. The police are convinced that Natasha is behind it, but Nina is sure she isn’t, and that both Natasha and her daughter are in terrible danger.
The book opens with a gripping horror story that a grandmother is telling her grandchild, about her own childhood. Interspersed with the modern-day story are chapters about this grandmother and her sister, the nightingale of the title. Olga and Oxana are sisters living in 1934 in Ukraine under Stalin in a year of a terrible famine when the social fabric of the village is crumbling under the strain of an authoritarian regime. Oxana, the “nightingale of the people,” has learned to work the system and become the good little party girl, but her choices have terrible consequences for her family. The ramifications of this choice reach out into the decades that follow, eventually winding their way into the lives of Natasha, her daughter Katerina, and Nina, who is just trying to keep everybody safe and happy.
Death of a Nightingale builds slowly, piece by piece, each clue revealing more and more still unknown.
Nina is passionate about helping others less fortunate and as a result, her personal life suffers. She is a endearing heroine–plucky and unrelenting in her quest to help others, calling in favors and involving whoever she thinks can help, while her own life is desperately flawed. Meanwhile, Natasha is just as desperate to gain her freedom and her daughter. She, like Nina, isn’t always entirely sympathetic, even while the reader can all too easily picture what would drive someone to such measures.
Death of a Nightingale is a well-written, intelligent thriller, combining history and current ramifications of past events with current issues such as illegal immigration, drug lords and mafia ties, domestic violence, and politics that enslave people. On top of that, the characters are people you care about and the plot is fast-paced and gripping.
Best of all, it’s the 3rd in a series, which means I have 2 new books to get as soon as possible. Highly recommended. You were wondering where to spend your Christmas amazon card, weren’t you?