“’What the hell makes you think,’ she said, in her most glacial voice, ‘that I am anybody’s victim?’”
Nina’s question, in an earlier volume of the series, is ironic in this context: The Considerate Killer begins with two blows to the back of Nina’s head and a lingering state of unconsciousness, while the severity of the damage is evaluated.
Other questions also arise, such as the distinction between an act of violence and an act of deadly force, whether someone was trying to injure or kill the series’ heroine.
“Damn it, he thought. They’ll never find him if that’s all they’ve got. And what if…what if it wasn’t a random robbery? What if it was personal and deliberate and directed at Nina?
If that was the case, there was every reason to expect the man to try again.”
There are more questions than answers at first glance, but Nina’s accident is met not only with concern, but also anger and frustration. Those who love her most have received too many phone calls about her being in a state of danger; this has taken its toll on her key relationships.
So And although there is a mystery at the heart of The Considerate Killer, the volume is preoccupied with some key decisions that Nina must make, regarding her personal safety (in the present and in the future).
“Afterward, lying next to him in bed, she had cried noiselessly for almost an hour. Over wasted efforts. Over good intentions. And the fact that it just wasn’t enough.”
The translation from the Danish by Elisabeth Dyssegaard captures a casual but not superficial tone; Nina is usually caught in a chaotic state, and the events are detailed succinctly, as though trauma is an everyday affair. As another character observes of her in this volume, she is at her best in a crisis and struggles with life between crises.
In this volume, she slows down just enough to reflect on some sadnesses. Her daughter, Ida, for instance, is particularly aware of the impermanence of life right now, and Nina is more concerned about this than ever before (which readers accept is because she has been able to avoid such considerations in the past, rather than that she was too self-absorbed to observe them).
“She thought of Ida’s new fear of death, of the loss of illusion that had eliminated her teenage sense of invulnerability.”
In the past, Ida and her brother have served more as anchors, deposits of guilt which Nina did her best to ignore as their mother. “As if Ida were only waiting for a chance to relegate Nina once and for all where she really belonged: Mom Hell. The place reserved for bad mothers, career women, alcoholics, and mentally unstable women where they might suffer for all eternity because they had dared to reproduce despite a complete absence of maternal qualifications.” (Invisible Murder)
The mystery revolves around a series of events which played out in the past elsewhere, with the narrative split between these scenic recollections and Nina’s situation. “Business and politics were the same thing in the Philippines, Vadim said.” As in past volumes, twinned matters of power and corruption, loyalty and betrayal, development and devastation are explored.
However, as was the case in past installments also, the intricacies are not rooted in movements or parties, but in pacts (honoured or broken) between individuals. This adds an element of unpredicability which simmers beneath the surface. “The man who loves and smiles one day can hate the next. Turn your back for a moment, and feelings will change and flow in new directions.”
As Nina’s recovery takes hold, the mystery overtakes The Considerate Killer, but efforts to resolve the matter are thwarted by an age-old challenge. “The loan madman, that invisible and ordinary man with his hidden insanity, was one of the worst nightmares of any intelligence service. Unpredictable and almost impossible to trace because he didn’t communicate with anyone, but cultivated his murderous fantasies alone. Until the day he attempted to carry them out in reality.”
In the series’ debut, Nina pondered the idea of outcomes: “But you don’t see all that many happy endings, do you? a small cynical voice commented inside her. Nothing ever really comes out the way you want it to.” (The Boy in the Suitcase)
While Nina begins this new volume as a victim, she is ultimately victorious, simply by virtue of choosing to make some decisions which she has studiously avoided to date. (Thoughts on the earlier volumes here, spoiler-free: The Boy in the Suitcase, Invisible Murder, and Death of a Nightingale.)
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