Honoured to be part of this epic blog tour. Thank you Karen & Anne for including me. It’s my turn today along with the fabulous Swirl & Thread so feel free to check out Mairead’s blog post too.
Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Ebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.
Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?
Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.
Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.
There is always a worry that translated fiction may not work. Not so in this case. Although this is deemed French Noir as Johana Gustawsson is French, the action takes place in London and Sweden, with a time lapse back to the concentration camp at Buchenwald in 1944-45.
Block 46 was an infamous building for the prisoners at Buchenwald. No one quite knew what happened in there but they knew it wasn’t good. When Erich Ebner was forced to go there, none of his fellow inmates expected to see him again. Johana’s writing for this section is superb. Deeply moving, she doesn’t shy away from the terror and horror of the camp. As difficult as it was to read, these were the parts that captured me the most.
However, this isn’t the main part of the story. Alexis Castells (French) is a true crime writer. When her friend, Linnea, is murdered in Sweden, she doesn’t hesitate to go and help. Initially dealing with the Swedish police, there are many things that don’t quite make sense to Alexis. When Linnea’s death is linked with murders in London, nothing makes sense at all. Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler working with Scotland Yard, is brought in to help catch the killer.
This is a novel with multiple viewpoints so it’s almost like reading a book in IMAX format. As well as hearing from Alexis, Emily and the Swedish police officers, we also hear from the killer. Chilling doesn’t even begin to describe it. Steadily, the two main plotlines weave together, with a few twists thrown in for good measure, leading to a climatic ‘don’t go in there’ moment.
Johana Gutawsson’s debut thriller is impressive. Of all her characters, Emily Roy is the one who intrigued me the most, not least because so little is given away about her. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to find out more as, thankfully, a sequel is on its way.
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About the author
Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is now working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.