They say it’s bad to have favorites because it makes it harder to be objective. Well, I disagree. If I don’t enjoy something, I say it. And when I love something… Then I release the beast!!!
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Blood Song!
Title: Blood Song (Roy & Castells #3)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Date of publication: 19 September 2019 in paperback (already available in ebook)
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: physical advanced reader’s copy
Number of pages: 272
Rating: 5 ⭐️
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.
Where do I even begin? There is a special place in my heart for Johana Gustawsson as she rekindled my love for my native language. Before I even begin talking about the mind-blowing novel that is Blood Song, I must mention that one of the powers of this series is the perfect (and I mean ‘perfect’ in the purest meaning of the word) writing with which the plot is delivered. Each word paves the way for the characters to enter your mind, for the taste of blood to invade your mouth, for the cases to turn personal. Johana Gustawsson masters words like no other. The rhythm of her sentences always matches the scenes she puts her readers in. As an avid reader, I enjoy plenty of styles and admire a long list of authors, but no one speaks to my head and heart as powerfully and beautifully as the Queen of French Noir. I am really glad that her work is handled by the talented translator David Warriner, who brings Johana’s style to English readers with accuracy. His translation does the original version justice and international readers are not robbed of the author’s magnificent style. Merci, David!
Blood Song. A chilling title for a chilling read. A prologue like a punch in the stomach. It takes a second to step into Emily Roy and Alexis Castells’ world once again. What a joy! At least, for the reader! But hey, we don’t pick crime fiction for the happiness in it! Still, the entire range of emotions can always be found in Johana’s Gustawsson’s novels.
Nothing is left to chance in Blood Song. When crime hits close to home, our characters must deal with the aftermath personally and professionally. I like the character of Alienor very much. It would be too easy to say she is in her own bubble. The murder of her family shows just how thin and yet so thick the wall between her and the rest of the world is. Alienor is special in so many ways, and Johana Gustawsson doesn’t fall for the easy traps. She has created a multi-layered character with strengths and weaknesses, and she explores it all in this novel, with subtlety and heart. Far from clichés, it becomes easier to connect with Alienor as she goes through the motion, helped by her mentor Emily.
Jump in time and space. No need for a Tardis when you have Johana Gustawsson. Spain. 1930s. A time I didn’t know about. Places that are unfamiliar to me. With eyes as big as a fish’s, I dived in. History with a giant H written in blood on the wall. I felt guilty for not knowing more about what happened only a frontier and decades away from me. With little knowledge, I let the author lead me through the past. A wind of horror and pain reached me. The research behind those chapters set in what feels another world but is in fact merely behind us is immense and we can feel it as we turn the pages. The weight of those lives, the fight, the courage. The distance faded away. I was right there. While becoming aware of the horrors of Franco’s regime, I grew attached to the characters and felt my heart explode with rage and despair. How, what do you do to me, dear author… Of course, I wondered what the connection to the murders of the present was. Of course, I raced through those lines that seemed so parallel they would never collide. Oh, but collide they do!
Both timelines are intense, filled with the best and the worst humankind is capable of. Johana Gustawsson doesn’t paint dark canvas for the sake of it. She uses them as a background to let human beings express themselves. Her characters, big and small, impacted me so strongly I can still feel their shadows by my side.
So, Meg, what about the actual crime element here?
Do I really need to say anything about it? Johana Gustawsson skillfully knits a crimson blanket between England, Sweden, and Spain. She sows different fates together with a sharp needle. She spills blood to let the wounds speak. I was transfixed by the seamless travel of the investigation and completely enthralled by the tension, the threat coming from everywhere. I drove on roads I wasn’t expected to discover, I gasped, I felt so close to the characters I thought I was going to lose myself in the pages. You can feel the author’s personal background shine through and pulse, like a safety belt keeping you afloat in those powerful waters of crime, because danger is never far…
Flawless and intelligent, Blood Song is intense, unique and magnificent. One foot in the past, the other in the present, the author reminds us we can’t run from old days, but can we learn from them?
Pre-order your copy, you won’t regret it! Amazon
And if you read French, come back in October for a second review!
Thank you to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this tour and for providing me with a review copy of this novel.
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. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.