August 07, 2012

Review: Only One Life by Sara Blaedel

Title: Only One Life
Author: Sara Blaedel
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Published: July 1st, 2012
Hardcover: 352 pages

It was clearly no ordinary drowning.

Inspector Louise Rick is immediately called out to Holbraek Fjord when a young immigrant 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 that her short life was a sad story. Her father had already been charged once with assaulting her and her mother, Sada, 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. Then why was she supposed to be sent back to Jordan? 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 has gone missing. Navigating the complex web of family and community ties in Copenhagen's tightly knit ethnic communities, Louise must find this remorseless predator, or predators, before it is too late.

This book has to be one of the saddest, most heart-clenching, soul-tugging books I have read in a long time.

Only One Life focuses on a character that is literally dead from the very first page, and yet metaphorically manages to come alive with every subsequent turn of a page. The story is about a teenager named Samra who is found at the bottom of a lake with a cement block weighing her down. It is the reader's job, alongside the Danish police to figure out whether this was an honor killing horrifically done by her own family, or an act of cruel violence done by a random murderer.

The author, Sara Blaedel, is a master storyteller - weaving this terrible crime into an even better storyline: a story that makes you question your own beliefs on honor killings - showing you an entirely different view of a culture that takes their pride extremely seriously.

By the end of the story, I must say that I felt both completely exhausted and utterly satisfied. Exhausted by all the emotions I experienced while reading this incredible story; and yet satisfied by Blaedel's ability to keep me guessing at the puzzle and intrigued with all of its characters. This is a truly magnificent work of art.

5 out of 5 stars


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  1. Great review, and what a haunting cover.

  2. woow/ never heard if this one and immediately on my wishlist

  3. I haven't heard of this book either. It sounds intense and emotional - I honestly don't know if I would be able to read it in one sitting. These type of books tend to mess with my head, I would need a happy read inbetween a few chapters here and there...
    Great review, thanks for sharing it!

  4. How have I not heard of this before?! As terrible as it sounds, these are the types of stories I usually gravitate towards. Honor killings are something that I just don't think I can ever understand. This sounds incredibly emotional but those are the best kinds of books, right? I'm definitely adding this to my must-buy list.

  5. Sounds like an interesting book. A dead narrator. It does sound emotional. Thanks for the review.

  6. This sounds like a very gripping story. Thanks for the review! s2inamug at aim dot com

  7. Wow. After such an intense review there isn't much left to say. I must read this book.


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