I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson. Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan for a copy of the book.
Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.
Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.
Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.
I had the great pleasure of reading the first in the Emily Roy and Alexis Castells series, Block 46, but I’ve not yet had the chance to read Keeper, even though it’s on my Kindle. So I’ve jumped ahead to the third book. There were obviously a few things that happened in book 2 as Alexis is about to get married! However, if you’ve not read any of Johana’s books yet this can be read as a standalone.
The Lindberghs, Goran and Kerstin, are found murdered in their house, along with their daughter, Louise. It’s particularly horrific as their tongues have been cut out. Trying to find the motive for the murder is tricky and Emily Roy and Alexis Castells have their work cut out for them.
The most chilling bit of Block 46 for me was the historical narrative and it’s the same for Blood Song. Looking back at the terrors of the Spanish Civil War and the years of dictatorship that followed, Johana Gustawsson has drawn a vivid and disturbing picture of what happened to Republican women and children. I studied a bit of the Spanish Civil War for A-level History but didn’t know about the camps and orphanages. It’s an incredibly moving account not least because of the personal connection that Johana has with that period in Spain’s history.
The personal connection continues with the IVF storyline. The Lindberghs owned a fertility clinic. Could the motive for their murders lay there? I don’t think I’ve ever read such a powerful story about infertility. I know couples who’ve had to go the IVF route and I don’t think I’d fully appreciated just how much they had to go through. This comes across so well in the novel and I certainly have a new appreciation of what people have to deal with.
I’m always intrigued as to how Johana weaves the past with the present and I really didn’t know where she was going with this story. But it all comes together in an incredibly emotive way. And I can honestly say I didn’t guess who the murderer was.
Overall, this book moved me in so many ways. Johana’s writing is always sublime and translated wonderfully by David Warriner. Her real strength is the way she handles such difficult topics. She doesn’t shy away from the horror but she manages to write these storylines in such a delicate way, especially the Spanish Civil War narrative. By revealing this tragedy, I think maybe Johana is also seeking to remove the shame that many of those women and girls must have felt. In a way, it’s a #MeToo moment for the Spanish women affected. A fabulous book that entertains and educates in equal measure.
To buy Blood Song click here.
Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson
has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her
critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la
découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published
in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish
and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and
their three sons.