Today I’m thrilled to be a stop on the Block 46 blog tour with a review of this deeply disturbing but utterly brilliant book.
About this book…
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 Hebner 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 true-crime 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.
Ok I have to start by saying that although I was desperate to read this book after hearing reading so many wonderful reviews, I did approach it with trepidation. It was mainly due to the fact that parts of it were based in a Concentration Camp and from a personal perspective I knew it was going to be tough reading. But can I just reassure anyone concerned or put off reading it due to the setting that you have NOTHING to worry about! Yes, it is harrowing and yes, some of those haunting scenes once imagined can’t be unimagined, but this book is based on fact and we must never forget what actually happened during the Holocaust, no matter how distressing. Johana Gustawsson has taken a personal slice of her own family history and used it to layer up an intelligent and beautifully crafted thriller.
Emily Roy is a criminal profiler who has joined up with Alexis Castells to investigate the death of a Swedish jewellery designer. Her brutal murder seems to have connections to the deaths of young boys that have been occurring in London. As they work together putting the pieces together, they are shocked to discover that all these crimes may also have a connection to the events that happened during the Holocaust back in 1944. These murders are quite graphic in nature but the author never shows a gratuitous side to the violence so although they are hard to stomach at times, the detailed descriptions are in the form of visual clues and a relevant necessity to moving the plot forward.
Block 46 has a very international feel to it with its combination of different settings and I totally forgot whilst reading it that the book had actually been translated from its original French. This seamless transition meant I became so involved with the investigation that the short chapters flew by. I was entirely hypnotised by the breathtaking and beautifully written prose and that twist! I hadn’t been expecting anything like that so when it came, it floored me! Yes, me who claims to spot 99.9% of twists had a moment of pure jawdropping pleasure when all the threads of this stunning book finally knitted themselves together. And I then had to read the final poignant chapter three times, unable to let Block 46 go, wanting to imprint it on my mind forever.
Block 46 was so much more than I had hoped for in a serial killer thriller. It’s probably one of the most memorable debuts I have ever read. Heart-breaking and hard hitting in equal measures, this book had it all for me and I was an emotional mess by the end of it. Very highly recommended by me!
Many thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater at Orenda books for my advanced review copy of Block 46 (Roy & Castells) which is available to buy now from Amazon UK.
Meet 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 working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.