I can finally open my mouth and let go of all the feelings Block 46 stirred in me! It was hell not to share, and the story is still so vivid in my mind. Let’s unleash the beast… Or beasts.
Title: Block 46
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: May 15th 2017
Number of pages: 300
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 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.
How do I even begin to describe the harrowing beauty of Block 46?
A look at the blue cover chosen by Orenda Books was enough to entice me to read the story. Would you believe me if I told you I did not even read the synopsis? Because I did not.
First, cover love. Second, call me shallow or whatever, I was proud to see a French author being published by an English company I trusted, so the Frenchie I am decided to give the story every chance by avoiding all information about it beside the cutting cover.
I was intrigued by the title, I was curious about the story, I imagined a lot of things. Johana Gustawsson gave Block 46 an unforgettable meaning, delivered a dark and intense story, and went above and beyond all I had in mind.
Why did women have this ridiculous habit of wearing the man’s clothes after leaving their bed?
Questions. I had lots of them throughout the two narrations offered in this story. I couldn’t figure out how they could be connected.
Present, dead and mutilated bodies, a changing modus operandi, different places, a difficult investigation.
Past, camps, the horror of World War Two, the pain in my chest when recalling my great-grandmother’s stories, survival, pure horror.
Johana Gustawsson nailed both narratives, whisking her reader away in a silent and macabre dance through one of the most intricate and riveting plot I have had the chance to read.
I was unable to detach my eyes from the pages, and my guess is you won’t either. The author shows, never tells, and her unique style makes the most traumatic events readable, as a reminder, as an unsung song to lost souls, as a tribute.
But, as Alba had once told her, death was not an absence but, on the contrary, a secret presence.
Emily Roy. Not the most amicable person, but an expert profiler, working on a series of horrendous murders on children. When she is called to Sweden to check the body of a woman presenting similarities with her current case, I wasn’t prepared for what we discovered. The author doesn’t spare you on details. Never just for the sake of disgusting you, but to plunge you into Emily’s world, to let you in on how to understand, connect, and find the worst human beings who ever walked the Earth. Every word carefully brings a piece of the scenario until your mind creates the entire picture and you can see everything for yourself. Feel everything. And be left speechless.
I can easily say that even if Emily is still a mystery to me, she has become a favorite protagonist of mine. Her focus and her mind are fascinating and her ways with others so very different from what you’d expect. She reads whoever she needs to get the answers she wants, and doesn’t bother with social rules when she doesn’t have to. It only made me more curious about her.
The profiler kept on sipping at her Guinness as if it were a vintage Bordeaux.
Emily can count on the police force to help her in her task, or at least, most of it. Profilers, especially young and female, don’t impress old and seasoned officers, but some do have her back, and she finds herself faced with an old acquaintance, Alexis Castells, deeply involved in the Swedish case. I must say I feel as much curiosity about Alexis as I do for Emily. Writer, specialized in serial killers, she finds herself in the middle of something she hadn’t expected and both women team up to stop the bloodshed. I feel there is so much to learn about both of her, so many layers to take off, and the author’s writing hints at deep scars, heavy backgrounds, and effortlessly shows you how multi-layered those two different but equally captivating characters are. I couldn’t help but fall and feel for them as the story unfolded.
Alexis’ daily routine, contrary to popular belief, had little in common with the wonderful Carrie Bradshaw’s.
I often say I don’t like discussing plots but this time more than ever, nothing I say will give enough credit to the intensity of the experience of reading Block 46. The book is brutal, almost primitive. There is no other word. I was disgusted. I was crying. I was shaking. I was shocked. I had no word. My heart kept either missing beats or rushing as thought it wanted to burst out of my chest. I was holding the book so tight my poor copy is in poor shape now, but that is what the most horrifyingly beautiful book does to you. A wonderfully skilled writing to the service of the most evil crimes. When everything unfolds and the answers are given to you, you can only put down the book and start breathing again.
Once you read Block 46, it is tattooed on your mind, for better and for worse, and you are left asking for more. Johana Gustawsson gives French Noir a new meaning with this phenomenal and unforgettable story.
You can find Block 46 in all good bookstores, on Amazon, or on the Orenda Books’ ebookstore
I would like to thank Johana Gustawsson for one of the most intense reading experiences I have lived, both in French and in English. I would also thank Karen Sullivan for her trust in this story and for bringing it to English readers. I am honored to have been a part of this blog tour. This unbiased review is my thank you to everyone behind this book.
Curious about Johana? You can find 5 Things about her below along with her biography!
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.
Find Johana on Twitter: @JoGustawsson
Don’t forget to check the other stops on the blog tour!