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 Ebner 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.
This book is a debut….really?! I have to keep reminding myself of this as Block 46 is so beautifully and cleverly crafted! Originally written in French, it is brilliantly and seamlessly translated by Maxim Jakubowski.
Block 46 reveals its story through the use of two timelines, it opens in the present day in London following the disappearance of jewellery designer on possibly the biggest evening of her career to date. When a woman’s mutilated body is found under a boat in a marina, the location moves to Sweden as they try to piece together Linnea’s last few days. When a young boys body is found with similar wounds in London, the narrative is split between London and Sweden.
Alongside the modern murder investigations, the narrative takes the reader back to the concentration camps of the holocaust. This is by no means easy reading, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into these sections as they come across as very authentic. It isn’t unclear for most of the book the relevance between the two time periods but this makes the plot more compelling – if life didn’t get in the way then I easily could have got lost into this book to read it in one sitting. The tension is created by the bucket load and the conclusion is spectacular!
Block 46 is a stunning example of a complex investigation that isn’t afraid to tackle a difficult subject. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it doesn’t make for easy reading, and highly recommend it. I have been thinking about it since I finished it and do have a book hangover!
Definitely one of my top books for 2017 and it’s only May! I look forward, somewhat impatiently for more from Johana Gustawsson – most definitely one to watch!
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.