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on 9 July 2013
Only One Life by Danish author Sara Blaedel is not so much a whodunit, I wouldn't even say it's a whydunit; it is, to put it gently, a "what the heck happened?" kind of book. This is one of those novels that have many layers. The first layer is made of facts, the second of hidden truths, the third is composed primarily by lies, the fourth talks about the social background and so forth.

As in her previous outstanding novel Call Me Princess, Blaedel is more interested in exploring the tortured psyches of her subjects than providing the reader with a fast-paced narrative. She wants to tell the story behind the story, to see where people are coming from and where they dream of going. She doesn't seem to seek to impress us with her twists and turns in the plot, as much as to make us think; to think about the world that's changing all around us, to consider seriously the issue of immigration and explore our capabilities to adapt in these new realities.

Her heroes and heroines are not extraordinary people; they are as common as they come. They live ordinary lives, lives full of small joys and great sorrows, lives which even at the best of times look unfulfilled, robbed of any potential for happiness. Samra is a girl that arrived in a new land, with different habits, but who tries hard to adapt, despite the fact that her family doesn't seem to want her to do so. Dicta, her best friend, leads a mostly carefree life, since she has rich parents who more or less let her be, even though she's no older than fifteen. Louise Rick, the cop, is a highly intelligent yet sad woman, who tries to find solace in her job and in helping other people out. Her friend, Camilla, is a stubborn journalist, who's trying to recover from a recent break-up, do the best she can about her son Markus, and of course excel at her work.

There are quite a few other people -mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and lovers, in this story- and there's drama all around. And that's exactly what makes the book so special. The people are the story, not the crimes. The crimes just serve to kick-start the process of this long journey of discovery that will lead the main characters time and again into dark places, while it will also show them that in the end not everything is lost, there's still hope in the world. Blaedel tackles the big issues of today with an open mind, and in doing so she has to give her heroes a human face. Nobody is perfect. They all have their weaknesses, they all every now and then do things that they regret and they all try desperately to understand each other, even though sometimes there's no way of making that happen.

How can people from a Muslim country find their way and start a new life in a world so much different from their own? How do they forget their traditions and their codes of honor? How do they integrate into an immoral, at least in their eyes, society? And how can the locals accept these outsiders? Do they feel threatened by them or do they really welcome them as who they truly are? Could it be that the only things that keep society from falling apart, of social tensions rising, are observing some codes of silence and every now and then turning a blind eye?

It takes a crime to burst this ideal world bubble, and another to bring it to the brink of destruction.

Only One Life is a good police procedural that tells a great story, but most of all it's a novel with a conscience, and you can't say that for every book that hits the bookshelves these days. A lot of those books try to feed on the fear of people for the unknown, while this one just tries to understand that fear and put it into context. A job well done.
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From the cover: "It was clearly no accidental drowning. When a young immigrant girl is found in the watery depths of Holbaek Fjord, a piece of concrete tied around her waist and two mysterious circular patches on the back of her neck, Detective Louise Rick is called to investigate.
The girl’s name was Samra, and Louise soon learns that her short life was a sad story. Abused by her father, it becomes clear that he would be capable of killing Samra if she brought dishonour to the family. But according to her family, she has done nothing to inspire this sort of violence.
Samra’s best friend believes that the worst has happened and shares her concerns with the police. Within days she is also discovered dead. To top it all, Samra’s younger sister has also gone missing.
In this heart-pounding new thriller from the Danish number one bestseller, Louise Rick must navigate a complex web of family ties, jealousy and obsession in seemingly idyllic Copenhagen, to find a remorseless predator, or predators, before it is too late…"

I really enjoy the Louise Rick series. She seems very real and her relationships - especially her friendship with Camilla - ring true. A series I would definitely recommend. There are now 9 books in the series:

1/ Grønt støv (Green dust)
2/ Kald mig princesse (Call me princess)
3/ Kun et liv (Only one life)
4/ Aldrig mere fri (Farewell to freedom)
5/ Hævnens gudinde (Vengeance goddess/ Goddess of revenge)
6/ Dødsenglen (Angel of death)
7/ De glemte piger (The forgotten girls)
8/ Dødesporet (The Death Track)
9/ Kvinden de meldte savnet (The woman reported missing)

It is not necessary to read them in order, but I would recommend starting from the beginning to get the full backstory as her personal life is always part of the story.
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on 20 February 2014
Interesting story about the difficulty for young immigrant girls to live within their own culture but also trying to assimilate into Danish society. I do think, however, that the main protagonists characters could have been more finely drawn to make this a more compelling series. Would probably read another one though.
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on 18 April 2014
My first introduction to Sara Blaedel as I expand my readership amongst Scandi mystery writers.

An enjoyable read with enough to make me want to read more.
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on 12 January 2014
This is the second book I have read of this author and I must at she is good .Very compelling read and great characters. Definitely will recommend her book to all.
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on 13 May 2014
This is good police procedural: the characters are highly credible. Liked the balance.between the main detective story and the development of the relationships.
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on 24 May 2015
Louise Rick is a detective in Denmark and her friend Camilla is a journalist. Both friends pasts, related in the novel Blue Blood, are alluded to in the course of this story but you don’t need to know what happened in the previous story to enjoy this one. The case involves a murdered girl who happens to be an immigrant from Jordan and an exploration of cultural stereotypes and the concept of honour killing.
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on 9 May 2015
This passed the time on some dull commutes, but it was fairly obvious early on who the murderer was. Interesting, but depressing, details about so-called 'honour killings', and a new insight into Danish life, but no more than that. One to get out of the library but not to spend actual money on!
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on 27 November 2012
This is the second novel featuring the Danish Detective Inspector Louise
Rick.It is an excellent, rounded police procedural thriller.
Louise Rick is called from Copenhagen to assist colleagues in nearby
Holbraek to investigate the discovery of a 15 year old schoolgirl of
Jordanian origin found on the edge of the fjord.Rick has previously worked
on an 'honour' killing in the immigrant community.and the investigators
consider that this case is similar even when subsequently a Danish
schoolgirl is found murdered.
The plotting and police procedural aspects are skilfully done,as are
the social issues concerning the integration of immigrants into society.
One is left with the uncomfortable feeling that however well-intentioned,
it is almost impossible not to be influenced by one's prejudices.
First-rate novel,entertaining and thought provoking.
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on 25 December 2013
First off, I have to make a confession: to my shame I only got interested in Blaedel and her central character Danish detective Louise Rick via another author, Mari Jungstedt. (I listened to her fifth novel, The Dead of Summer, set in the Swedish Island of Gotland on CD and was instantly hooked).

If that seems like a left-handed compliment to Baedel that's not how it is meant: for my money both authors have managed to create credible female lead characters, have them work alongside believable male co-workers and have - at least in my opinion - routine lives and investigate credible crimes committed in well-rendered real-life places and societies and thereby breathed new life into the familiar - sometimes tediously so - territory of the trans-Atlantic police procedural.

Like Jungstadt, Blaedel accomplishes this feat by dint of intelligent plots, well-crafted writing and solid settings, so if you are looking for a pot-boiler featuring stock types from Central Casting, contemporary references with the shelf-life of fresh strawberries, brand-name products sprinkled like fairy dust to add a veneer of veracity and all the other symptoms of writing aimed at a fast transition to the small screen, if not a movie franchise, my strong advice is to look elsewhere.

While Blaedel's Louise Rick is a perfectly credible detective in personality terms she is balanced by another career woman: friend, confidant and reporter Cammilla Lind, sho sadly doesn't get to share the billing. Thankfully that's about the only the resemblance to John Watson: this partnership isn't of the Holmes/Watson variety - no embarrassing 'Remarkable, Louise' moments - they each do their thing, routinely keep in touch, occasionally vent about the turns their separate lives have taken until - inevitably in crime fiction - they ended up working the same investigation from their respective angles. (Check out the second novel, 'Blue Blood' at least in the UK title; in the US it's 'Call Me Princess')

Blaedel's twist is the fact the pair lead independent but intertwined lives, having a complex but credible social, emotional and professional relationship of a kind appropriate to women who met as girls just out of high school who have kept in touch ever since, despite the sometimes competing demands of their respective professions.

This device, simple but brilliant, simultaneously enriches characterisation, drives the plot(s) along at a respectable lick and neatly eliminates the need for either to be unrealistically intelligent, incredibly thick, become a lightning rod or Superwoman. (And in the case of at least one well-known Scandinavian crime fiction tag team all four simultaneously.)

Very, very highly recommended.
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