THE SERBIAN DANE - Leif Davidsen
I can't remember the last thriller styled book from a Scandinavian author that I've read - but I certainly hope I'll find another one soon. THE SERBIAN DANE lingered too long on the unread piles around here - but once started it was fascinating. A Serbian hitman, Vuk, born in Denmark but very much formed by the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, is hired to kill an Iranian author. Sara Santanda has decided to come out of hiding, and her first appearance is scheduled for Copenhagen.
Santanda's contact in Denmark, Lise Carlesen works for the newspaper Politiken. Despite the Danish government's reservations about their relationship with Iran, they agree to provide security protection, and the man in charge is Per Toftlund. Lise's marriage is already on the skids, and Per is a very attractive man. In an interesting twist her increasing absence allows a mysterious stranger to befriend her husband, a combination of all the relationships and events combining to form the catalyst for a quite dramatic conclusion.
Given that this book is a thriller in style, there is quite a lot of action. Alongside that though there are some great character explorations - particularly that of Vuk, the hitman with so many identities that he seems to have lost who he really is. It's strange, but there's something quite vulnerable and complicated about Vuk - as cold-blooded and as ruthless a killer as he is. It seems that you get a real glimpse into the damage that war can do. At the same time Per and Lise's relationship is an interesting development. What is most interesting, however, is that this is a book that was originally published in 1996, yet the issues discussed, the action portrayed and the tension engendered really felt quite contemporary and believable.
This is a really good thriller with a full range of the required elements (tension / pace / threat and a sense of menace), alongside some suprisingly good characterisations and just a touch of human insight.
LISE CARLSEN: A successful journalist trying to smooth over the cracks in a failed marriage.
PER TOFTLUND: A crack member of Denmark's secret service, a lone wolf: unattached, without family and fanatically committed to his work.
VUK: a highly skilled political assassin who has lost everything in the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Raised in Denmark of Serbian descent.
Vuk has swapped identities so many times in order to survive that he can no longer see himself as anything other than a highly efficient killing machine. His victims, however, hardly get to see him at all, and by then it's too late. They're already dead.