I’ve heard a lot of good things about Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, and was thrilled when Karen at Orenda Books offered to send me a copy for review.
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.
Block 46 is set in two seemingly unrelated time periods. Much of the storyline is set in January 2014, and focuses on the investigation into Linnea’s murder in Sweden, as well as that of a boy discovered on Hampstead Heath. The other main element of the plot concerns Erich Ebner, a German medical student who has been incarcerated in Buchenwald concentration camp for rejecting Nazi doctrine. Whilst these sections were harrowing in terms of the depiction of what life was like for those held in such places, I have to say that these chapters were my favourite parts of the novel, largely because it gave a very different vibe to the story. Throughout, I wondered how the author would bring these two storylines together, given how different they are, yet Gustawsson brings them together nicely by the end of the novel, with a couple of nice little twists thrown in along the way.
In terms of the present-day investigation, Alexis Castells and Emily Roy make something of an unusual pair, and I liked that their roles added something a little different to the crime genre, as they aren’t your standard police officers or PIs. Castells is a true crime writer, and therefore has some experience with investigative work and the more gruesome aspects of a crime scene, but has no authority in an investigation, although that doesn’t seem to stop her listening in on interviews. Emily Roy, on the other hand, is a behavioural profiler, and does have that link to the official channels involved in an investigation. Roy was by far my favourite character in the novel. I loved her “I don’t give a ****” attitude and her determination to succeed, whatever barriers she comes up against.
I did have a couple of outstanding questions by the end of the novel, largely around the experiments undertaken in Buchenwald. Whilst it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel, I wanted to know what it was they were hoping to find or prove in the work undertaken there. It may be that there was no real aim, and it was all some perverse obsession on the part of Dr Fleischer who was in charge of the medical experiments facility, but I was curious to know his objective.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and given that this is being flagged as Roy and Castells 1, I’m hoping there is more to come in this series. I definitely want to see more of Emily Roy!
Block 46 was published in May 2017 by Orenda Books – many thanks to the lovely Karen Sullivan for providing a copy for review.