Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Only One Life

Summary: Jealousy, obsession, and family honor have fatal consequences for an immigrant community on the fringes of seemingly idyllic Danish society.
It was clearly no ordinary drowning. Detective Louise Rick is called out to an inlet in the forest near Holbæk when a young girl is found in the watery depths, a piece of concrete tied around her waist and two mysterious circular patches on the back of her neck.

Her name was Samra, and Louise soon learns the sad story of her short life. Her father had already been charged once with assaulting her and her mother, who makes it clear that her husband would indeed be capable of killing Samra if she brought dishonor to the family. But she maintains that Samra hadn’t done anything dishonorable. Samra’s best friend Dicta thinks it was an honor killing. A few days later Dicta is discovered, bludgeoned to death, and Samra’s younger sister is missing.

Navigating the complex web of family and community ties in Denmark’s tightly knit ethnic communities, Louise must find this remorseless predator–or predators–before it is too late. -- Pegasus Crime

A few weeks ago, I was cramming (I guess that's the right word) for my trip to BEA, and one of the books that was on my must-read list was ONLY ONE LIFE by Sara Blaedel. I had been invited to a party in honor of the release of Ms. Blaedel's second novel in the U.S., and I wanted to be familiar with the novel and the characters in case I had the opportunity to talk with her. I am so glad that I did. Not only did I enjoy the book, but I also had the chance to talk with Ms. Blaedel at the party.

ONLY ONE LIFE tells the story of Louise Rick, a Danish detective who is investigating the murder of a young Muslim girl. It seems fairly obvious that the murder is an honor killing because the girl brought about shame to her family, and the girl's father is the prime suspect. He had already been charged with assaulting her and her mother, and the girl's mother made in clear that he was capable of killing for the family's honor. However when the girl's best friend is also found brutally murdered, Louise begins to think that there's more to these murders than what first appears.

Of course, there was more to the murders and I thought the mystery aspect of this novel was well done. I pretty much figured that it was entirely too obvious for the father to be guilty of killing his daughter; and when the girl's best friend was found murdered (in an entirely different way), I admit that I had no idea who the culprit was. Towards the end of the story, I did start to figure things out; however, it was only a few pages (and maybe even paragraphs) before everything was revealed. I was definitely kept guessing and I was satisfied with how things were wrapped up.

Another aspect that I enjoyed about ONLY ONE LIFE were the various characters. I especially enjoyed Louise and thought she was intriguing and likable. I also liked her friend and crime reporter Camilla, and I appreciated how Ms. Blaedel used this character to explain many of the Muslim traditions. While ONLY ONE LIFE is part of a series, I think it works well as a stand-alone; and I think the author gave enough background information about the characters so the reader won't feel as if he or she is missing anything.

And finally, my favorite thing about ONLY ONE LIFE was that it delved into the Muslim culture that exists in today's Denmark. I found this examination of both cultures to be fascinating, and I learned a great deal about the dynamics between them. (In all honestly, I had no idea that Denmark even had many Muslims or that there were tensions between the groups.) I think Ms. Blaedel did an excellent job of showing both sides of the story -- she truly was very fair about this controversial subject matter.

As I read ONLY ONE LIFE, I couldn't help but have problems understanding certain aspects of the Muslim culture. The real question I had while reading this novel is how could anyone kill their child because she dishonored her family. And while I still can't fathom it, I do think ONLY ONE LIFE tries to explore the reasons behind these actions; and ultimately, it did make me think about prejudice, assumptions, and family dynamics.

Ms. Blaedel is one of Denmark’s most successful crime writers and considered to be the "Danish Queen of Crime." Her books are now becoming available in the United States, and ONLY ONE LIFE is the second book in this series that has been published here. The first novel is titled CALL ME PRINCESS and I was fortunate enough to get a signed copy at Ms. Blaedel's party! I'll be sure to review this book too as part of my Mystery Monday feature in the near future.

I enjoyed ONLY ONE LIFE and look forward to reading about more of Louise's adventures. ONLY ONE LIFE is available on July 1st.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I'm looking forward to Blaedel's books after meeting her. She was fascinating!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

wow, sounds great!

Beth F said...

She was so nice and easy to talk to, wasn't she? I can't wait to read her books (once my box arrives .... today, I hope)

Anonymous said...

I adore a good mystery and this sounds very promising. Thank you for the introduction and the review.