Once again Danish author Sara Blaedel uses the vehicle of a crime novel series (featuring Copenhagen Detective Louise Rick) to expose the exploitation and abuse of women. In this instance, the emphasis is on a particularly insidious form of prostitution.
In Farewell to Freedom, Blaedel calls attention to human trafficking: specifically, the kidnapping of young foreign girls who are brought over to Copenhagen and forced into prostitution, which was decriminalized (albeit with restrictions) in Denmark in 1999. Since the girls from abroad are only allowed to stay for three months on tourist visas, they are moved from country to country like livestock, which is why those who gain from this human trafficking are known as “shepherds.”
The girls are kept on a punishing schedule to bring money in for the traffickers, and if they object, the pimps threaten to harm or kill them, and/or retaliate against their family members back home. The girls also face a daily threat of possible violence or even death from johns, in addition to the basic degradation and trauma of prostitution generally. They are too afraid to report what is happening to the police.
In Denmark (according to the U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report), most of the trafficked women originate from the Baltic countries, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Latin America. This particular novel involves girls from Czechoslovakia.
As the story opens, one of these girls is found brutally murdered in a way suggesting it was done to serve as a warning for the others. Almost simultaneously, an abandoned infant is found at a nearby church. Are these two events somehow related?
Detective Louise Rick, along with her good friend reporter Camilla Lind, end up, as usual, looking into the same occurrences but from different angles. Whereas Louise approaches them as a relatively dispassionate police investigator, Camilla always gets emotionally involved; in this instance, far too much.
In their personal lives, the plot line involving the infant precipitates a clash between Louise and Camilla on the importance of children: is having them a proper criterion for a successful life? Louise would rather be “free,” and remembered having once visited a fortuneteller,
“…who in all seriousness told her that a child’s soul chose the mother it wanted before it was born. Personally, Louise was just fine with the fact that no child’s soul had picked her.”
Their attitudes on children come into play as more people become involved in the crimes. Neither woman believes in coincidences: fortunetelling aside, why were all these crimes somehow picking them?
Discussion: Blaedel has an interesting way of taking the reader on what appears to be a plodding, methodical course, following around the police as they slowly get wise to a seemingly obvious perpetrator. Then suddenly she upends the story. But the twist is also rendered in an low-key way, making for a very fun effect. It reminds me of jalapeño chocolate ice cream: you taste the familiar chocolate; you’re wondering what the fuss is; and then the jalapeño kicks in, slow but sure. Yes!!!
Evaluation: The story pulls you in as it moves along, and manages to stack up satisfying surprises in the end. I love how much I learn because of the nature of the crimes highlighted in Blaedel’s police procedurals, and I love that the author spotlights – in a balanced and compassionate manner – sociological problems faced by women.
Note: This is the 4th book in the Louise Rick/Camilla Lind series, but you don’t need to have read the others to figure out who is who and what’s happening.
Published by Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, 2012