Time has come! Let’s talk about Keeper!
Title: Keeper (Roy and Castells #2)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: May 2018
Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some 10 years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down.
I am one of the lucky one who get to read Johana Gustawsson’s stories first. Being able to read in French has its advantages! I read Mör a few months ago but had kept quiet about it as I wanted to review both books on the same day. It was so difficult not to shout just how mind-blowing the story is and how her beautifully bloody and elegant writing style immerse you in the shadows of the worst kind. But I did it. And weeks later I got the chance to read the translation, called Keeper and published by Orenda Books. Now you might know I am in love with many Orenda Books stories but you never know how you will feel about the next. Some stories just don’t work. Guess what. This one did.
Keeper. A word with promises. If you have read her first story in the Roy and Castells series, you think you know what you are getting into. Except you don’t really. There is no word to describe how dark and deep Keeper is. A raw gem wrapped in the most striking, cutting, astonishing narration. I couldn’t breathe at times. I couldn’t stop reading. Yes, I did cringe at some details, as our Johana knows how to make her reader feel the events are happening in front of them and she puts them at the heart of the story with no protection whatsoever. This is the best way to enjoy both the characters and the story.
Roy and Castells are back, for better or for worse! Demons from the past are coming back to haunt them, giving us the chance to get to know them better. I love those women. They couldn’t be more different. At least, that is what you are meant to believe. Emily is like a cat – independent, she doesn’t let you in, a protection cloak surrounds her. It would have been easy for her to become a cliché, to be cold and steer clear of any human contact, but there is more to it. Thanks to the author, layers of our favorite profiler are peeled, we get into her head and we start to understand her better. In her own way, she maintains relationships, and Alexis Castells is one of them. Alexis, struck and beaten by the past. Alexis, struggling and fighting to find a way out. Her feelings broke my heart, her strength made me more courageous. Did I say I loved those women?
But the magic doesn’t stop here. The characterization is so acute that every protagonist, main or secondary, comes with a history which makes the book richer, stronger, and better. You recognize names, you discover new ones, you wonder, you ask for more. I followed every thread with the same interest, coming back and forth from the past to the present, looking for clues and for answers.
Keeper is the perfect example of a story with the right balance between character development and action.
Here comes the action! Jack the Ripper rings a bell? We have all heard and/or read about it, but this time it feels personal. Knowing the characters, watching them retrace steps in two separate time frames, was completely fascinating. I cannot say much about what happens. Let’s say Johana Gustawsson brilliantly mixes the past and the present, coloring them both with blood and presenting us with the most realistic and chilling scenario. Having had the chance to meet her, I wonder where those intense and noir ideas come from! Because Keeper is not a happy story with butterflies and rainbows. Keeper is dartense! (dark and intense, a word I had to create for her first story, Block 46, as I was stuck and couldn’t express how I felt!) Actually, I even thought it was darker than the first book! Your mind screams for more and your emotions are all over the place as you imagine yourself being a victim, coming face to face with the bad guys, being right there with Emily and Alexis.
I would like to thank the translators, Maxim Jabulowski and David Warriner, for their fabulous work to allow Johana Gustawsson’s touch to shine through the translation.
Keeper cuts through your mind and body and leaves scars, keeping you begging for more from one of the best French voices in literature.
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.