Block 46 was published on 5 February 2017 by Orenda Books and is available to buy here
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.
WINNER: Nouvelle Plume D’Argent 2016
Block 46 is quite simply outstanding. I am still recovering from the powerful impact of this book. It is incredibly clever, multi-layered and it leaves an emotional imprint. I was left speechless, wondering how I could do such a book justice. This is my attempt to share my love for Block 46.
First of all, I would like to clarify one thing. I went into Block 46 thinking it was a French novel, with a French setting. The author Johana Gustawsson is French. It has been translated from the French version of Block 46. I was very wrong. It really is more of an English cross Scandinavian hybrid crime novel. It feels like Scandinavian noir. It oozes it.
Block 46 has a few strands. As with a real quality drama, you soon follow them and accept that it will take a while to get to unpick the truth. One strand follows Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler living and working in London. She is on secondment to Scotland Yard. She is part of a police investigation looking into a series of deaths, where the bodies have been mutilated in quite a peculiar way. She is soon on her way to Sweden, to investigate a link to a crime committed there.
Also in the present day, we get to meet French true crime writer, Alexis Castellis. She is at the opening of a new jewellery collection by her friend, Linnea Blix in London. Linnea does not show up at the event. She is reported missing. Linnea’s boyfriend, Peter Templeton, does not know where she is. Alexis, Peter and another friend, Alba, fly to Falkenbury, Sweden to see if she is at her holiday home. Unfortunately a body is discovered. Linnea has been murdered.
At the same time, we are introduced to chilling part of German history. In 1944, a young student doctor is on his way to the death camps. Erich Ebner is on board an over crowded train en route to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. This marks the start of Erich’s descent into the hell of the camps, where people are murdered, tortured and treated as less than human. Erich is German and a political prisoner of war.
Everything does connect, in time. Beautifully and movingly. There seems to be serial killer at work, in the present day. We have two time shifts, in London, then Sweden and war torn Germany. We have a story that just simply is strong, believable and extremely dark. When Emily Roy and Alexis Castellis join forces to get to the truth, it becomes truly exciting and mesmerising. The pace never lets up. We have a very chilling serial killer, who is escalating in his crimes. Plus a horrific and realistic account from Erich of the evil perpetrated by the Nazi to Jews, political prisoners and others deemed outsiders in their regime.
With some intense, gorgeous writing Johana Gustawsson takes us on an unforgettable journey. We learn about humanity and how low it can sink. This is a story of evil. With a twist or two, the ending will simply leave you breathless. This is noir at its best, with some very French and Scandinavian tones. A very unique and stunning read. A book to just savour!