ONLY ONE LIFE
Author: Sara Blaedel
Sphere RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
The trouble with discovering a new Scandinavian crime writer is that you have to wait ages for their books to be translated. Sara Blaedel is my latest find and her book Only One Life, first released in 2007, has only just been released in Australia following its English translation in 2011. After reading Only One Life, I’m keen to read more from this clever writer and get to know her key character, Inspector Louise Rick, better. It’s a long time to wait!
Samra, a young immigrant teenager is found in a fjord, concrete tied around her waist. Clearly, her death was no accidental drowning and, fresh from a honour killing case, Inspector Rick is determined to crack this case fast. While she uncovers abuse and harsh treatment, leading her to suspect that Samra’s father would be capable of killing a daughter who brought dishonour to the family, she is unable to come up with a motive. The situation escalates when Samra’s best friend, Dicta, is found bashed to death; police attention turns to this latest development and Dicta’s secret life, but is brought full circle when Samra’s much younger sister goes missing.
Blaedel cleverly opens the book with an author note about honour killings: “An honour killing is the murder of a family member due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family or community. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that perhaps as many as five thousand women and girls a year are killed by members of their own families.” Chilling stuff. The author appears to have a dual motive for sharing this information: Firstly, she’s making social commentary about an important topic, and she adds some balance to an emotive issue through a journalistic investigation; secondly, she uses the information as a device to propel the story along, casting suspicion on a group of characters and leading readers (and the investigators) down a particular pathway.
Only One Life is a well-crafted crime thriller, complete with clever plot twists, distractions and shady characters. It moves at a fast pace and its topical nature adds interest, as well as food for thought. The story has a lot going on, what with two best friends being killed, and a missing child, but all the loose ends were tied up well. I did suspect the killer early on, because of something he said/did when he was chatting with investigators, but other distractions had me not entirely sure. My only issue with the story is that the missing child aspect came in so close to the end that it wasn’t really necessary to include it at all. Another distraction? One too many perhaps. Aside from that, I enjoyed this novel and I’m keen to read more from this author.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. My copy was courtesy of Hachette.
Bookish treat: I fell back on an old favourite with this book. There was an unopened packet of potato crisps nearby and I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer.