Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The Serbian Dane is an exciting political thriller written by Leif Davidsen and translated from the Danish by Barbara J. Haveland.

Sara Santanda, an Iranian author with a 'fatwa' and a price on her head, is invited by the Danish newspaper Politiken to visit Copenhagen.
Lise Carlsen the young attractive chair of Danish PEN will be her hostess. Detective Inspector Per Toftlund of the security service PET will face the task of keeping this female Rushdie safe during her visit. One complication is that Lise's shaky marriage to psychologist Ole is deteriorating fast; she and Per Toftlund will have to work very closely together on this assignment, and naturally as one relationship falters another begins. 
The Iranians through their contacts in the Russian Mafia hire highly skilled political assassin Vuk to kill Sara Santanda. 
Vuk, was raised in Denmark by Yugoslav immigrant parents, who were killed along with his sister on their return to Bosnia by Muslims. He does not kill for money but this last mission could mean that he and his girl friend Emma could start a new life.
The lives of these three people move inexorably closer together as the story progresses to its climax.

I decided that it was an appropriate time to read The Serbian Dane when I saw that Radovan Karadzic, soon to be on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, had been finally tracked down by the Serbian authorities. Vuk the anti-hero/villain is by far the most interesting character in this exciting thriller so very reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal.  By far the best parts of the book are  reading about the details of Vuk's preparations, planning, journey across Europe and the accounts of his methods to avoid being traced or detected.

'So your government is going to be laundering money for the Russian Mafia?'
Rezi was grinning now too. But his eyes weren't smiling as he spread his hands in a gesture that said that was about the size of it.
'It's perfect,' Kravtjov said. 'It's perfect Vuk. No one loses out.'
'Except Sara Santanda,' Vuk said.
'Just silence the infidel bitch,' Rezi snarled......

PEN stands for poets playwrights essayists editors and novelists and is dedicated to freedom of expression. International PEN was founded in London in 1921 and was contemporary with the League of Nations. I would mention that none of the recent chairs of Danish PEN look anything like the attractive fictional Lise Carlsen.

This was a very enjoyable hard hitting exciting thriller with one slight hitch in the plot which perhaps could be explained by the smaller budget of PET in a sleepy country like Denmark compared with hard nosed British security. 

What is incredible about this book, which criticises the Danish political establishment for not wanting to meet the Santanda/Rushdie character and risk the export trade in feta cheese with Iran, is that it was written in 1996. 

1996 way before Bali, 9/11, The Iraq invasion, 7/7 and the Danish cartoons. 

However the Danish newspaper Jylland-Posten published cartoons on the 30 September 2005 that created world wide reaction and brought sleepy little Denmark to the forefront of world affairs.

The Serbian Dane was an ideal book to read while staying in a beautiful bed and breakfast in Lewes isolated from the world's and our problems. 

Mr Nelson, a young computer genius, who worked on naval missiles for the Ministry of Defence was called into his superior's office one day many years ago. He was told that his sister Miss Nelson aged 17 was going out with a left wing activist Mr Trotsky and he should be very careful about what he said to her in front of him. Mr Trotsky married Miss Nelson and Mr Nelson's promotion prospects were forever limited.  
[The names have been changed in this little story to protect the innocent and the naive but British Intelligence do watch our every move.] 


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