Helen Fields – One for Sorrow

Helen Fields – One for Sorrow

First, their pathologist is killed, then another attack is clearly aimed at police and paramedics. Edinburgh has to face a brutal serial killer who is not targeting the public to cause general panic but only aims at the forces. DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are confronted with death every day – but not the death of their colleagues and friends. It is obvious that the cases are linked, but they simply cannot find the thread that holds them all together, they only know that it is just a question of time until the bomber hits again, taking more lives of those who help others every day.

Helen Field’s latest case for her Edinburgh team is full of twists and demands everything from her protagonists. This time, it is personal, Ava is affected directly by the death of her friend and still grieving when she needs all her wits to hunt down the serial killer. “One for Sorrow” is already the seventh novel in the series and in my opinion definitely the best. It had me gripped immediately and I kept speculating about the identity of the killer, following wrong leads cleverly laid out again and again.

There are two time levels in the novel. On the one hand, we follow the police investigation which is always several steps behind their enemy. The killer is knowledgeable and perfectly follows his plan. What I liked especially was the scene where they ask a profiler to help them to identify the person behind it all. It made absolutely sense and was highly informative and interesting to follow the line of argumentation.

On the other hand, there is a kind of totally gone wrong love story about a young woman named Quinn and her boyfriend who, instead of accepting the breakup, turns into a freaking stalker. It is obvious that this is the missing link to the bombings, yet, you need to see the whole picture of Quinn’s story to understand the motive behind it all.

A suspenseful and highly emotional mystery I hardly could put down.

Julian Barnes – The only Story

Julian Barnes – The only Story

“Would you rather love more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”


Paul looks back at his life and the love of his life, Susan. He met her when he was only 19, she, at the time, was almost 30 years older, but fascinated by the boy. She was married, had her place in society, was experienced and could teach him how to love. For years they had an affair, then they ran away, and then their life crumbled and fell apart. Susan fell apart. Taking her away from her well-settled life-style did not do her good, but Paul was in love. As he had always been. She was the love of his life. His only love. His only love story. Until he couldn’t go on anymore. But loving her he never stopped, until the very end. And he could never and didn’t ever want to find another woman to love in the same way.

After writing certain kinds of biographies about Shostakovich and Sarah Bernhardt, Julian Barnes returns with a novel about the greatest topic in literature: love. And it is not meant to end well, like most of the great love stories; neither Romeo and Juliet nor Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary found the love they dreamt of and could live it.

The story is told from elderly Paul’s perspective. Many decades have passed when he remembers how it all began, but he does not judge his younger self, nor smile at his naiveté. He takes young Paul just like he was: innocent, inexperienced and with great expectations. There were adults around him telling him that he was just dreaming and naive – but this did not keep him from falling for the elder woman. His unconditional love and admiration for Susan are compelling, but the reader senses that this will not end well. However, it does not turn out as expected since Susan is not the woman she seemed to be. Taken from her natural surroundings, she is completely lost. Her roots are cut and she does not get a grip on the new life.

It is a sad story, but Paul doesn’t regret it:

“What he did regret was that he had been too young, too ignorant, too absolutist, too confident of what he imagined love’s nature and working to be.”

Julian Barnes is a great writer, he knows how to tell a story, how to pace it perfectly and he finds the right words to have his characters express themselves. What I liked especially throughout the novel was the search for a definition of what the big four-letter-word ultimately means. He concludes that it can be happy or unhappy but it surely will be “a real disaster once you give yourself over to it entirely”. Well, that’s it maybe, surrendering yourself, come what may and adhering to it.

A wonderfully told novel, sad but enchanting.

Travis Neighbor Ward – The Unified Theory of Love and Everything

Travis Neighbor Ward – The Unified Theory of Love and Everything

Emerson Wheeler could be happy. At 32, she has a loving husband, tow great girls and a small gardening business which is just starting. But after the suicide of her father, she starts questing the decisions she has made in life and when she takes over a new job at Hay Manor, this aggravates. Sybil, the elderly owner of the mansion, introduces her to Finn, an army member who has some very different notions of life. They get along better and better and at a certain point, Emerson has to question her marriage. When Finn offers that both of them and their kids spend the summer at his lake cottage, she agrees knowing that this will be a serious test for her life so far.

Travis Neighbor Ward’s novel addresses many topics all adults have to face sooner or later in life. Emerson seems to have a perfect life, but you can be unhappy and disappointed even by what seems to be picture-perfect from the outside. If your life does not fulfil you, if you had plans that had to be given up for whichever reason, you will be dissatisfied or even frustrated at some point in life. No matter how ideally you might match with your partner, you go on in life and develop further, and you might be forced to reassess if you still what the same things in life and if you still have the carefully constructed balance in your marriage. For Emerson and her husband, this is not true anymore after some years, but instead of talking about it, they find other problems which cover the real troubles. Apart from these, we have grown-up suffering from experiences of their childhood which make them unable to utter their feelings and even permitting feelings at all.

There are a lot of aspects in this novel which are worth thinking about since they are taken from life and it surely offers a lot of ideas to talk about in book clubs. Yet, I missed some surprise in the book. Most of the developments are very stereotypical and foreseeable. The protagonist also seems to be a very clever woman, but her decisions are purely emotion based, I did not have the impression that she was pondering over her situation, but acted impulsively which I found not always very convincing. Nevertheless, I liked the style of writing and especially the hints to Albert Einstein which were cleverly integrated.