The Drowned Girl
Young girls are required to adhere to the mores and norms of their specific backgrounds. Within this community in Holbraek, Fjord, lurks a killer who has taken aim at two young girls but why? If a young girl belonging to an immigrant family dishonors their wishes and disgraces them, they might be subject to what is referred to many times within this novel as an Honor Killing. Samra, is a young Jordanian immigrant found dead in Holbraek Fjord with a huge piece of concrete tied around her waist holding her down and odd and mysterious marks on the back of her neck. Getting to know her better and learning more about the inside of her mind, the author shares Samra’s life living in fear of her abusive father who has been charged with assaulting her and her mother many times. Within this novel you hear his denials, hear and see the sadness and words of the mother struck with despair at learning about her daughter’s death and Samra if she disgraced the family would have been victim to these Honor Killings. But, Sada, her mother vehemently denies that she dishonored her family although we learn they had decided to sent her back home to Jordan but for now we will not learn why.
Louise Rick oversees the case along with her partner Mik. Her team of investigators is stressed to the limit and yet she manages to learn more than most would in a short time. Interviewing her family, her friends, teachers and classmates they learn another side of Samra. Smart and yet clever to elude her parent’s watchful eyes at times, she managed to stay afloat but not for long. Her father dished out cruel and inhumane punishments at times leading the investigative team to wonder if he planned and executed her murder. Camilla Lind is a journalist and wants to write this story but is focusing on the issue of Honor Killings in the immigrant community and her boss, Turkel does not want this slant at all. Added in we get to know more about her best friend, her addiction with getting a job as a model in photo shoots, the men she was involved with and the fact that she received several emails from her photographer telling her to back off and that they were not going to be anymore than photographer and model.
Listening to the voice of her best friend and realizing that even her family had much to hide, you wonder if Dicta was telling it straight about herself and then she is the next victim. Her murder is more disorganized and unplanned while Samra’s seemed well orchestrated. When their teacher learns of their death it is devastating and the difficulty telling the other students leads the community to think that this class might be the target of a killer. This story takes place in Denmark and the immigrants are Muslims. But as you hear the investigators talking and you learn more about each of the victims and their pasts you begin to wonder if someone in both families committed the murders. When someone disgraces their family and the extended family learns of this dishonor things spiral in directions and often the control is taken from the family members unless they do what is expected. Shame in their family would bring total dishonor and would a father kill his daughter?
Throughout the novel we hear many voices and one that stands out is of the journalist< Camilla as she stands up to her boss stating that even though many Danish and others believe in taking control of their children’s actions,, Honor Killings are drastic and the issue of teen behavior, child/parent relationships, parental and spousal abuse, violence, loyalty and friendships are strained within the novel.
Louise and her team work diligently and finally home in on the father and brother of Samra as well as the parents of Dicta to decide if one or both sets of parents decided to end their daughter’s lives because they disgraced them. Samra’s diary that was found in Dicta’s room would enlighten the police to something that happened to her that changed her life, caused someone in her family to viciously rape her, put a family at odds and yet have a father protect her but who would do this and why? Things spiral even more out of control when Louise questions Hamid, Samra’s uncle and then learns more from someone else that changes the entire perspective of her thinking and the movement of the case. Ibrahim, Samra’s father approached the one man who raped his daughter but when Samra told of what happened it took more than most would expect for him to believe her. But threats were made, and a family divided but did this one person kill Samra or was it someone hiding in plain sight? She had a Danish boyfriend and that was forbidden. Dicta wanted to be a model and posed for two men and her father did not seem to mind that her pictures were shown but her mother seemed withdrawn and not able to handle life since her death.
An interview would change it all and the reason why both girls were killed will shock readers as who Samra’s boyfriend was and why this same person had to eliminate Dicta will bring readers to understand that it was not about an Honor Killing but about something else.
Lies, betrayals, jealousies, deceptions, unrequited love and family traditions and customs all caused the final reveal and the sadness of two families, the vicious mob scenes of the public and their outrage for the immigrant community and a young child is kidnapped and the search for Samra’s little sister is on. With Camilla not backing off from what her article would say, and Louise in opposition to many for what she thinks might be the reason for the child being missing, the ending will shock readers as one family is more than destroyed, another faces a parent’s denial and the final outcome is the sadness which began with the death of the Drowned Girl. Powerful characters, family strife and a novel that will haunt your definition of family and justice for a long time.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ network